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Gates Foundation to offer at-home testing kits for coronavirus

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will provide up to $5 million to help public health agencies in the greater Seattle area detect coronavirus.

SEATTLE — The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has announced it will begin offering home-testing kits for people in the Seattle area for the new coronavirus in the coming weeks. 

The foundation will give $5 million to help public agencies enhance their capacity to detect coronavirus in King and Snohomish Counties. 

It is not clear when the project will launch, but it's ramping up as quickly as possible. 

RELATED: Real-time updates: 16 coronavirus deaths among 103 total cases in Washington state

People who think they've been infected can fill out a questionnaire online and request a test kit if their symptoms are consistent with the illness the virus causes. 

The kits will be delivered within two hours and include nose swabs. 

The samples will be sent to a lab at the University of Washington for testing.

On Feb. 5, the foundation committed up to $100 million to the global effort to respond to coronavirus. 

“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 Gates Foundation deeply appreciates the efforts that local, state, and federal public health authorities have invested in responding to this outbreak, and we are eager to contribute our knowledge and resources to the effort.”

What are coronavirus symptoms?

The symptoms of coronavirus are similar to the flu or colds. Symptoms include a fever, cough, and shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, according to the Washington State Department of Health.

The severity of symptoms ranges significantly. Some cases are very mild with symptoms similar to the common cold, and some cases are more like severe pneumonia that require hospitalization.

Most deaths have been reported in older adults who had other health conditions, according to DOH.

Symptoms may appear as soon as two days after being exposed to the coronavirus or as long as 14 days.

A new Washington call center has been set up to answer your questions about COVID-19. If you have questions about how the virus spreads, what is being done in Washington state, and what you can do if you have symptoms, call 1-800-525-0127 and press #.

RELATED: Facts Not Fear | What you need to know about the coronavirus outbreak