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Collins, Senate Health Committee question Fauci and others about COVID-19 testing

Dr. Anthony Fauci, of the National Institutes of Health, told Collins that 'pool testing' would allow more people to be tested using fewer resources

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA — Dr. Anthony Fauci and other federal health officials responded Tuesday to questions about COVID-19 posed by U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine) and other members of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Tuesday.

Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, answered Collins' question about "pool testing" for the virus.

"Earlier this month Maine issued a framework for safely returning to campus this fall that recognizes the importance of testing and the need to include financially struggling institutions in partnerships in order to make sufficient testing protocols possible," Collins said.

She asked Fauci about "pool testing" as a way to allow more people to be tested using fewer resources—which she said experts say makes sense in areas with low rates of COVID-19 where the majority of the tests would be expected to be negative.

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Fauci explained that pool testing involves testing 5, 10, or 15 samples at once "to get a feel for the penetrance of infection in a community."

"If that test is negative, then you know those 10 people are all negative ... so instead of utilizing 10 tests, you've utilized one test. Then you get another batch of, we'll say, 10 or so, and if you then find one is positive, then you go backtrack and figure out who that person is," Fauci said.

Fauci said pool testing can save time and resources, and used in many situations including communities and schools.

"It sounds like an excellent technique for our schools to use," Collins replied.

Collins also asked Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir, MD, about access to testing and its impact on reopening schools and "the thousands of jobs in the tourism industry upon which Maine's economy depends."

RELATED: Maine is open to tourists after the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic

"In Maine, for a tourist to come and visit, for that out-of-state-visitor, one option is to show a recent negative test," Collins said. "The problem is that when hotel owners in Maine surveyed testing sites in 10 states, they found that 90 percent of requests for a test for travel purposes were denied. This lack of access to tests is devastating for reopening Maine's tourism [industry]."

Collins asked Giroir how the federal government is working with states "to better match demand for testing with supply and to overcome these geographical variations."

"Every week, shipments go to every state," Giroir said, in part. 

Collins replied, "I hope you will help us get that word out to states from which a lot of tourists usually come from Maine."

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At NEWS CENTER Maine, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the illness. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: /coronavirus

NEWS CENTER Maine Coronavirus Coverage

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