Amazon will assist its hometown city of Seattle with at-home COVID-19 testing, according to a report from CNBC on Monday.
The test kits are provided by the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN), a research effort based on the prior Seattle Flu Study initiative that is now dedicated to better understanding the spread of the novel coronavirus. It has funding from Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ private Gates Ventures investment arm and receives technical assistance from his philanthropic group, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The effort mirrors one in the San Francisco Bay Area funded by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s philanthropic and medical research groups. Both represent some of the most significant corporate investments in trying to make up for the failures of the federal government in rolling out widespread testing to the US.
Amazon will carry out the test deliveries and pickup through its existing Amazon Care arm, an internal healthcare platform dedicated to Amazon employees and their families. Yet COVID-19 testing won’t be restricted to just Amazon employees. Anyone in the Seattle area will be eligible through SCAN, including children and those who aren’t displaying flu-like symptoms but may be asymptomatic. According to CNBC, “All the couriers involved have been trained in handling medical material, and they will distribute the self-swab kits to the homes of those who have requested them.”
“Responding to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 crisis must be a community effort and requires support from both the private and public sectors,” Kristen Helton, the director of Amazon Care, told CNBC in a statement. “We are grateful to be surrounded by a strong community of public health, global health and academic leaders and are eager to leverage Amazon Care’s infrastructure and logistics capabilities to support this local effort.”
Seattle and the surrounding area of King County have been among the hardest-hit metropolitan area in the US during the coronavirus pandemic, with more than 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 100 deaths.