The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has made new commitments to respond to the spread of the novel coronavirus in its hometown of Seattle, including new public health funding and a project to provide at-home testing kits.
According to a report by The Seattle Times, the test packages will include nose swabs that can be mailed to the University of Washington (UW) for analysis, with the goal of processing thousands of tests per day.
The project is pivoting resources from the two-year-old Seattle Flu Study, previously funded by the Gates Foundation, which uses self-test kits and volunteers to help track the local spread of influenza and other viruses through rapid genetic sequencing and mapping chains of transmission.
That study is led by the Brotman Baty Institute in collaboration with UW Medicine, as well as the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s.
Seattle has seen the most serious impact from the disease, known as COVID-19, in the U.S. so far—with 15 area deaths reported and most from a nearby nursing home, plus additional infections in the state.
The foundation will also deliver an additional $5 million to public health agencies in the greater Seattle area to help bolster their response, on top of the $100 million it set aside in early February for international COVID-19 efforts.
“Early detection plays an essential role in helping public health authorities identify and treat people with COVID-19, take steps to safely isolate them and reduce transmission within the community,” said Gates Foundation CEO Mark Suzman.
The previous $100 million included up to $20 million slated for global infection control efforts, up to $20 million for partners responding in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia and up to $60 million for the development of vaccines and treatments.
“The COVID-19 epidemic reminds us that infectious disease respects no boundaries, and no community is immune to the threat of a global pandemic,” Suzman said. “We can, however, take steps to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in Seattle and around the world, and we are ready to support these efforts here in our home community.”