• Nearly 2.5 million infections have been confirmed in the U.S. but the count may be 10 times higher
  • The new-case daily total hit a record Thursday, topping 41,000
  • Pool testing would allow health officials to cast a wider net and figure out how deeply the virus has penetrated society

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top administration infectious disease expert, says the administration might change its coronavirus testing strategy: testing groups of people together whether than mostly performing individual tests to find infected individuals more quickly.

Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, testified earlier this week before a House panel he had not been pressured by the White House to slow testing. In an interview published Friday by the Washington Post, he said so-called pool testing would allow public health officials to cast a broader net, reaching more people more quickly.

The statements came after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Robert Redfield told reporters Thursday the number of Americans who apparently had the virus is much higher than current testing indicates – perhaps 10 times higher, meaning some 23 million Americans contracted the virus without showing symptoms. He also estimated up to 95% of the population still is susceptible to the disease.

By late morning Friday, testing indicated the number of Americans with confirmed infections was headed toward 2.5 million, and nearly 125,000 had died. Thursday saw a record number of cases confirmed in a single day, more than 41,000 as the virus surged in more than two dozen states, many of which were relatively unaffected in the initial stages of the pandemic. The death toll also spiked this week to about 2,500 a day.

“Something’s not working,” Fauci told the Post. “I mean you can do all the diagramming you want, but something is not working.”

The new approach would allow health officials to find how deeply the virus has penetrated society, Fauci said. In a pool of 20 people, one test would be performed. If it comes back negative, researchers would move on; if positive, every individual would be tested.

Fauci said traditional methods of fighting communicable diseases – testing, isolation and contact tracing – may be ineffective against coronavirus because of how easily it is spread by asymptomatic individuals.

President Trump has blamed the spiraling number of cases on extensive testing.

“We now know the level of virus in an asymptomatic person is about the same as the level of virus in somebody who has symptoms,” Fauci said. “So, it’s like, oh my goodness, how do you address that?”