Story at a glance

  • Gates said SCAN is currently testing 300 people every day and actively working to test more.
  • The data collected from the program will be used by researchers, data modelers and public health officials to piece together a sharper picture of how the coronavirus is moving through the community.
  • Gates stressed SCAN isn’t intended to replace widespread testing.

Microsoft co-founder and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates is funding a disease surveillance program in Seattle to detect COVID-19 cases and better understand the spread of the outbreak. 

The Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) enables Seattle residents to use a self-swab test to collect their own nasal samples and send them to a lab without leaving home, according to a blog post Gates posted Tuesday.  


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Gates made it clear that SCAN isn’t meant to replace widespread testing needed in communities, but can become an important tool for health officials to learn about how the virus behaves. 

“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,” Gates wrote in the post. 

The data collected from the test results will be used by researchers, data modelers and public health officials to piece together a sharper picture of how the coronavirus is moving through the community and who is at greatest risk. It can also be used to determine how well physical distancing measures are working. 

“As SCAN gathers more test results in the weeks ahead, researchers expect the new data to provide a better sense of the number of infections and serve as one source to help answer other questions, like when physical distancing measures can be relaxed,” Gates wrote. 


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Gates said SCAN is currently testing 300 people every day and is actively working to test more. 

The project is funded by Gates’ philanthropic organization and private office, and is in partnership with the Seattle and King County Public Health Department, the Brotman Baty Institute, University of Washington Medicine, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Seattle Children’s Hospital. It relies on modeling from the Institute for Disease Modeling (IDM). 

Anyone interested in participating in SCAN can enroll online. Once approved, they get a test delivered directly to their home, and once the test is complete, a courier service picks it up and returns it to SCAN to be processed. 

Those who test positive are then contacted by a public health worker who provides guidance. 


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Published on May 13, 2020