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Tufts University’s mission is to make a positive impact on the communities that surround our campuses. This goal is grounded in our long-standing commitment to civic engagement and a belief that higher education has a responsibility to not only inspire and prepare students for career success, but also to be engaged citizens. 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, local school districts are finding it difficult to open K-12 schools and keep them open without adequate surveillance testing. Tufts is partnering with Medford and Somerville to successfully and safely open schools through free pooled COVID-19 testing of all students and staff. Tufts successfully piloted the pooled surveillance testing strategy in September and is now rolling it out in the communities, allowing students to benefit from a regular schedule of classes, extra-curricular activities, and school-based support services while also permitting parents to return to work. 

Tufts COVID-19 testing site

What is Pooled Testing?

Pooled testing combines samples from eight individuals and performs a COVID-19 test recommended by the CDC for that “pool.” Although results will reveal if one or more people in a group are infected, we won’t know who the positive individual actually is. A follow-up test on each person in the group is then done. Combining samples from individuals into a single test offers significant cost savings, with Tufts’ research indicating that positivity results are identical to individual testing while the infection rate in the population is below 10%. 

Pooled testing is being done successfully in many environments often using a PCR Diagnostic Assay test. This is a safe, high-quality, real-time test intended for the detection of COVID-19 nucleic acid. Nasal swabs are checked to determine whether an infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 is present.  

Tests are processed at the Broad Institute, which is certified under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988 (CLIA), 42 U.S.C. §263a, to perform high complexity tests.