(CNN) — 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 and acknowledged to The Washington Post that the Trump administration’s current testing strategy has proven inadequate.
The proposal is still in the discussion stage and is not expected to be announced at the task force briefing later on Friday, Fauci told CNN.
Although President Donald Trump has repeatedly downplayed the need for increased testing — and suggested last week that he asked for testing to be slowed down — the nation is experiencing a surge in confirmed cases, demonstrating the nation’s inability thus far to get a grip on the spiraling pandemic.
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.”
The way “pool testing” works is by mixing together several samples together into a “batch,” or pool, and then test 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.
This comes after the US Food and Drug Administration recommended such a strategy earlier this month 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?”