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White House virus task force holds 1st briefing in 2 months, ‘seriously considers’ new testing strategy

WASHINGTON, DC -- Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious disease expert, said the White House coronavirus task force is having "intense discussions" and is "seriously considering" pool testing for COVID-19. He also acknowledged that the Trump administration's current testing strategy has proven inadequate.

Fauci said the proposal is still in the discussion stage and it was not ready to be announced at the task force briefing on Friday, which was the first briefing by the group to occur in two months.

"Something's not working," Fauci said of the current testing approach in the interview with the Washington Post earlier Friday. "I mean, you can do all the diagramming you want, but something is not working."

In pool testing, several samples are mixed together into a "pool" and then tested at once. If the virus is not detected, all patients in the batch can be deemed negative. If it comes back positive, each sample is then tested individually.

"What you need to do is find the penetration of infected people in your society," Fauci said. "And the only way you know that is by casting a broad net."

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, also said it's a way to ramp up testing as cases spike across the country.

"Pooling would give us the capacity to go from a half a million tests a day to potentially five million individuals tested per day," Birx told an American Society for Microbiology virtual conference this week.

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.

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