Safer reopening will require millions more tests per day. Solution: "Pool testing"

It’s a simple construct: combine — or pool — samples from multiple people and test them as a group for the coronavirus. It’s a way to dramatically and efficiently increase volume, to churn through what you expect to be a lot of negative samples at a fast clip.

“Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially 5 million individuals tested per day,” Deborah Birx, who is helping lead the White House’s coronavirus response, told an American Society for Microbiology virtual conference this week…

Take a warehouse with 100 employees. Every so often (experts are still weighing how frequently this testing should occur), the company could test the staff, and instead of running 100 separate analyses, it could group 10 samples into a pool and only run 10 analyses.

“You could test everyone as they walk into the door,” said Paul Sax, an infectious disease specialist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, who has written about the challenges of returning to work during the pandemic.