How does pool testing work?
Pool testing is an FDA-approved technique in which multiple samples (usually about 12 people) are combined into a single “pool” or batch and tested all at once.
The technique uses the same polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology as individual diagnostic tests, but by pooling multiple samples it allows more people to be tested quickly using fewer testing resources.
Pool testing isn’t meant to verify whether any one person has COVID-19, the way an individual diagnostic test does. Rather, it’s part of a broader surveillance strategy that allows for efficient screening of people who are asymptomatic.
If a pooled sample tests negative, then all individuals within that pool can be presumed negative.
If a pool sample tests positive, a second round of individual tests (called “reflex” tests) is administered to determine which individual(s) within that pool has COVID-19.
This testing strategy is most efficient in areas with low prevalence of the disease, where most test results are expected to be negative. This makes pool testing a good fit for SUNY New Paltz’s campus community, where roughly 99% of on-campus COVID-19 test results have been negative since the beginning of the fall 2020 semester.