So far, at least fifteen states have launched a new way to test for COVID-19—pooled testing–that will detect the virus in asymptomatic and pre-symptomatic individuals, helping detect the virus before they can spread it to others. “Early detection like this is exactly what we need to keep students in classrooms, and COVID out,” Acting Health Secretary Alison Beam said at a news conference announcing the Pennsylvania testing program.

Pennsylvania, Arizona, North Carolina, and Missouri are among the many states currently offering districts in their state a pooled testing option using Concentric by Ginkgo Bioworks. Concentric’s testing service is also being considered for use in Texas.

With pooled testing, as few as 5 or as many as 25 individuals self-swab using a short swab. Each swab is then placed into a single tube (the pooling step) with other swabs from the cohort (such as a classroom, campus staff, or athletes). A positive within the pool is then followed up with an individual test within 24 hours. Staffing, supplies, and other costs for these programs are fully covered by relief funds from the federal government allocated specifically for K-12 testing.

Pooled testing is a more time and labor efficient and cost-effective way to test larger groups of people, screening prior to symptoms becoming evident, and thus stopping the spread. Of course, parent permission is required for testing students.  “Asymptomatic testing provides critical information to educators, public health leaders and community members,” Ginkgo’s Chief Commercial Officer Matthew McKnight says. “Each of us at Concentric is committed to supporting communities as they work to keep kids in classrooms and COVID out this fall.” Read more about how other states are using pooled testing:

Missouri State COVID-19 Testing      Pennsylvania State Testing