Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates is funding a coronavirus testing program that aims to uncover how the virus is moving through communities using at-home tests. The billionaire philanthropist is working with the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, SCAN, to send self-swab tests to Seattle homes. The program will collect nasal samples, even from people not showing symptoms.
“As a surveillance program, SCAN’s goal isn’t to test every person or serve as a replacement for medical care,” Gates said in a blog post on Tuesday. Instead, he said the program “has the potential to become an important tool for health officials seeking insights about the spread and behavior of the virus.”
The at-home test results will be paired with information about age, gender, race, zip code and pre-existing health conditions, said Gates. The data will then be used by researchers to track the spread of COVID-19 and help pinpoint at-risk communities.
The program is already testing 300 people per day, according to Gates, and will be accepting applications to have the test sent to them starting Wednesday through the SCAN website.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has been at the forefront of relief efforts, donating upwards of $300 million in funding to ease the global effects of COVID-19. In April, Gates said the “foundation’s total attention” is on the coronavirus pandemic. There are now over 4.2 million confirmed coronavirus cases globally, with more than 1.3 million in the US as of Wednesday.