Bill Gates has announced he’s helping to fund a new COVID-19 scanning program in Seattle.
The system is called the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) and will send home nasal swabs to people to sample and monitor the spread of the coronavirus, whether they are unwell or not.
Gates said SCAN is already scanning 300 people per day, and it will open up for applications from the public.
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Microsoft billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates is funding a new “disease surveillance” programme that samples the Seattle population for COVID-19.
In a blog post on Tuesday, Gates said it involves sending Seattle citizens self-swab tests they can use at home to collect and send nasal samples to a lab, even if they are not showing symptoms.
Gates is funneling cash from his philanthropic organization and his private office to fund the effort, called the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network, or SCAN.
He wrote: “”As a surveillance program, SCAN’s goal isn’t to test every person or serve as a replacement for medical care.
“Instead, SCAN is testing a sample of people in the Seattle region, including those who are healthy as well as those who are feeling sick.”
The test results and a bunch of other information — age, gender, race, zip code, and underlying health conditions — will be used by researchers, data modelers, and public health officials to examine COVID-19’s spread and identify at-risk demographics.
Gates wrote: “Those test results are then analyzed by disease modelers to map virus transmission chains. By examining the genetic signature of an infection, they can determine whether it represents a new introduction to the region or is part of a local transmission.
“They can also use the data to estimate disease prevalence and build models to look at how the virus is responding to certain measures—like school closures and physical distancing.”
The SCAN kit is designed to be used at home
SCAN Public Health
Although Gates is funding and publicizing the project, SCAN is headed up by five medical organisations: the Seattle and King County Public Health Department, the Brotman Baty Institute, the medicine faculty University of Washington, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, and the Seattle Children’s Hospital.
Gates says the project is already testing 300 people per day, and on Wednesday will allow members of the public to apply to have a test sent to them via an application form on SCAN’s website.
Here is Gates’ intro to SCAN:
Gates stresses in his blog SCAN isn’t designed to replace widespread national testing. Gates has been critical of US slowness on COVID-19 testing as well as the inequality surrounding who gets tested.
“Our system fails to have the prioritization that would give us an accurate picture of what is going on,” Gates told a CNN townhall earlier this month.
He also criticized the US system for taking more than 24 hours to return test results to people. “What’s the point of the test? That’s your period of greatest infectiousness,” he said.
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