Amazon is going to be working with a new research initiative backed in part by the Gates Foundation that will distribute at-home coronavirus assessment kits, and then deliver the collected samples to FDA-approved test facilities. Amazon Care, the health arm formed by Amazon initially for internal employee care, will be handling the delivery of the kits, as well as transportation of collected samples to the test labs, as first reported by CNBC.
While the FDA updated its guidance just a few days ago to specifically exclude at-home testing from the Emergency Use Authorization that is in place to enable broadened private lab testing of potential COVID-19 cases, the arrangement with the Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network (SCAN) and Amazon Care bypasses use of the traditional mail or package delivery network. The Amazon Care drivers who are doing the test kit drop-offs and deliveries are specifically trained in proper handling of sensitive medical materials, and the SCAN project is for a limited research endeavor undertaken in order to help “understand how coronavirus is spreading in the Greater Seattle area.”
Availability of kits will be limited, but will include the kind of swab testing that is being conducted at drive-through testing facilities in the U.S. Should a sample test positive for COVID-19, the person who provided the sample to SCAN will be contacted by a healthcare worker for next steps, including advice on how to seek treatment and prevent transmission.
SCAN is the result of a partnership by Seattle & King County’s Public Health department, as well as a team of hospitals and health organizations that created the Seattle Flu Study, a similar project meant to study the spread of the traditional seasonal flu within the community. The research and data modeling work done for that study have been adapted to the study of COVID-19, and the flu study has been put on hold while researchers focus on the pandemic instead.