Gates Foundation is funding at-home coronavirus test kits in Washington state

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting a project that will provide at-home coronavirus test kits to those at risk in the Seattle area, which has been hard-hit by the coronavirus outbreak in the US.

Scott Dowell, leader of coronavirus response at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, told the Seattle Times that the goal of the project is to eventually be able to process thousands of tests a day. The kits will allow people who are concerned that they may have been infected to swab their noses and send the samples back for testing.

According to The Times, the results should be available in one to two days, and those who test positive can fill out an online form to answer questions about their movements to help track the spread of disease.

The foundation, which is headquartered in Seattle, Washington, pledged $100 million last month to fight the coronavirus outbreak. A majority of the funds have been designated toward vaccine research, frontline responders, prevention measures, and treatment efforts around the world.

The at-home test kits may help Washington state as it works to contain an outbreak of the new coronavirus. The state has confirmed 136 cases of the virus and 18 deaths, and on February 29, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee declared a state of emergency.

"One of the most important things from our perspective, having watched and worked on this in other parts of the world, is the identification of people who are positive for the virus, so they can be safely isolated and cared for, and the identification of their contacts, who can then be quarantined," Dowell told The Times.

According to The Times, it's unclear when the at-home testing project will launch, though the foundation is moving quickly to upgrade its software and finalize its online questionnaire to prepare for an expected influx of requests.

"Although there's a lot to be worked out, this has enormous potential to turn the tide of the epidemic," Dowell told The Times.

Although the new coronavirus, which causes a disease known as COVID-19, has not yet been declared a pandemic, the virus has already infected over 110,000 and killed at least 3,825 people globally.

Bill Gates has been warning about the risk of a pandemic disease for years, stating that a global health crisis like coronavirus could wipe out 30 million people in less than a year.

"The good news is that with advances in biotechnology, new vaccines and drugs can help prevent epidemics from spreading out of control," Gates said in 2017.