Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan’s charity wants to ‘quadruple’ the Bay Area’s COVID-19 testing capacity in under a week by buying diagnostic machines

Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan are the donors behind the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. Taylor Hill/Getty Images
  • The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative has formed a “COVID-19 task force” that wants to quadruple the Bay Area’s testing capacity, the organisation announced Tuesday.
  • The philanthropic group, funded by Priscilla Chan and Mark Zuckerberg, plans to buy additional diagnostic machines, which it said will be in place starting March 16.
  • The task force will also include members from Stanford University and UCSF.
  • The announcement comes as the US continues to lag behind other countries in testing people for the coronavirus disease.
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The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is forming a coronavirus “task force” with “the aim to quadruple the Bay Area’s COVID-19 testing and diagnostics capacities,” the organisation announced Tuesday.

“We’re funding the acquisition of state-of-the-art FDA approved COVID-19 diagnostic machines that will significantly increase the Bay Area’s ability to test and diagnose new cases. We’re also bridging connections between clinical labs at Stanford and UCSF to help distribute the testing load throughout the area,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote in a Facebook post Tuesday.

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative said it expects to have the machines ready by March 16. However, tests will only be made available to symptomatic patients with doctor approvals, per public health official guidance, the organisation said.

“As the coronavirus epidemic continues to grow, our ability to rapidly test and diagnose cases is critical,” Chan Zuckerberg Biohub co-President Joe DeRisi said in a statement. “Procuring these new diagnostic machines will have a significant impact on our ability to respond to the outbreak in a more streamlined way.”

The task force includes members from the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative and the Chan Zuckerberg BioHub, two groups funded by Zuckerberg and Dr. Priscilla Chan, as well as scientists from Stanford University and the University of California San Francisco.

The task force’s formation comes as the US remains severely limited in its capacity to test individuals for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that fewer than 2,000 Americans have been tested, while South Korea – a country with less than one-sixth the population of the US – has tested more than 189,000 people.