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Samples All Together

US officials are considering allowing pooled COVID-19 testing, the Associated Press reports.

Pooled testing — testing in which samples are combined and processed together — could boost the number of Americans who get COVID-19 testing, it says. In addition, the approach would be cheaper, make lab supplies last longer, and possibly identify asymptomatic spreaders. In this type of testing, if a batch of samples tests negative, then everyone in that batch is given the all-clear, but if a batch tests positive, then the people whose samples were in that set would have to be re-tested individually, it says.

The AP notes that the US Food and Drug Administration has not cleared any pooled testing, but has told interested test makers to examine whether batch testing affects testing accuracy.

However, a pooled approach isn't always the best approach, the AP says, adding that it is not as useful in outbreak hotspots or places where more than 10 percent of individuals are expected to test positive.

Additionally, Emory University's Colleen Kraft tells the AP pooled testing could slow the return of results and the placement of COVID-19-positive people into quarantine due to the extra testing step.