Amazon will deliver at-home COVID-19 test kits in Seattle trial

It's partnering with a Gates Foundation-backed research initiative.

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AP Photo/Elaine Thompson
AP Photo/Elaine Thompson

Amazon is playing a direct role in COVID-19 relief beyond shipping essentials to people sheltering at home. Amazon Care, the division providing healthcare to company staff, is partnering with the Gates Foundation-backed Seattle Coronavirus Assessment Network to deliver and pick up at-home COVID-19 testing kits as part of a trial. The number of kits will be limited, but should help widen testing for the virus without relying on conventional mail and courier deliveries.

Every driver involved has been trained in handling medical material, Amazon told CNBC. The tests revolve around the familiar swabs used at drive-through testing locations. If a recipient tests positive, healthcare workers will get in touch.

Amazon Care director Kristen Helton said in a statement that the company knows fighting COVID-19 will require help from "both the public and private sectors," and was "eager to leverage" Care's resources to back a local effort.

This isn't a full-fledged testing system, and it's not guaranteed to expand further. However, it could show how Amazon and other companies could improve access to testing at time when it's critically low. Amazon also has a vested interest in accurately diagnosing and fighting the spread of COVID-19. Washington state has been particularly hard-hit by the virus, with over 1,000 cases and 75 deaths in King County (which includes Amazon's Seattle home) as of this writing. Improved research and testing could help keep employees and the broader community safe.

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