Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said Friday that the White House coronavirus task force is “seriously considering” pool testing for Covid-19.
The proposal is still in the discussion stage, and is not expected to be announced at the task force briefing later today, Fauci told CNN. Dr. Fauci first mentioned the discussions in an interview with The Washington Post published on Friday morning.
“Something’s not working,” Fauci said of the nation’s current approach in an interview with The Post. “I mean, you can do all the diagramming you want, but something is not working.”
Here’s what “pool testing” means: The strategy works by mixing several samples together into a “batch,” or pool, and then testing the pooled sample with one diagnostic test.
This way you can test a group of, for example, 25 people with one test rather than 25 separate diagnostic tests.
If the test comes back negative, then you have eliminated 25 people with one test. If you get a positive result you go back and test people individually.
Fauci’s comments come after the US Food and Drug Administration recommended such a strategy earlier this month on to companies seeking to make tests for mass screening of people for coronavirus. And last month, local health authorities in the Chinese city of Wuhan said they managed to test more than 9 million people using 6.6 million tests. Chinese media reported that Wuhan used a pooled testing approach.
“What you need to do is find the penetration of infected people in your society,” Fauci told The Washington Post. “And the only way you know that is by casting a broad net.”
Fauci also told The Post that the high levels of asymptomatic spread of the Coronavirus are forcing health experts to rethink how to approach mitigating the spread of Covid-19.
“We now know the level of virus in an asymptomatic person is about the same as the level of virus in somebody who has symptoms,” Fauci said. “So it’s like, oh my goodness, how do you address that?”
Fauci stressed to CNN that this is not a new policy, but it is under consideration.