Thus far in the coronavirus pandemic, efforts to track the spread of SARS-CoV-2 in the U.S. have been stymied by a general lack of kits to test for it. Recognizing the need to remedy that, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is working to bring simple home testing kits to market quickly, and Amazon (AMZN -0.21%) has offered to use its logistics expertise to deliver them in the Seattle area.

Through its Amazon Care virtual medical clinic, the e-commerce giant is negotiating with local public health officials to determine the best methods for it to get the tests into the hands of the public.

Doctor swabbing a woman's nose

Image source: Getty Images.

Testing is the first step

The Gates Foundation recently announced it was committing $5 million to develop a coronavirus response in Seattle through a research project it previously funded to track the spread of infectious diseases such as influenza.

With its home-testing kits, those who fear they may have been infected can simply swab their noses, then send their kits back to the University of Washington for analysis. Making tests available to people in their homes reduces the need to travel to doctor's offices, reducing their risk of spreading the coronavirus further.

Amazon Care offered to develop a plan to deliver the test kits at no cost so they could be in the hands of patients within a few hours.

Amazon has also launched a $5 million relief fund for small businesses in the Seattle area that have been hurt by the outbreak> It's also subsidizing the rents of tenants in buildings it owns, and is paying the wages of hourly support staff who will be unable to do their jobs while the company is having its office-based employees work from home.