Frequently Asked Questions

Schools

Whether you’re a superintendent, a teacher, or a parent—we’re here to help. Read below for answers to questions like “How long does it take to test a whole class?” or “Do I have to touch the swabs?” and other questions from teachers and administrators.

Who We Are
  • What kinds of organizations do you work with?

    Our pooled test was developed specifically for K-12 schools. We also provide testing for colleges, corporations, senior living facilities, and more. If you have questions about whether Concentric is a good fit for your school or organization, contact us.

  • Who is Ginkgo Bioworks?

    Ginkgo Bioworks is a company that uses the most advanced technology on the planet — biology — to solve problems. Understanding how biology works allows us to do all kinds of things: provide COVID-19 tests for millions of people; clean polluted wastewater; improve vaccine manufacturing; and so much more! Concentric is our way of using what we know about biology to help communities during the pandemic.

  • What is Concentric by Ginkgo?

    Concentric by Ginkgo is a COVID-19 testing service that aims to make testing accessible for every school in America. We use a method called pooling to dramatically lower costs without sacrificing accuracy. Pooling makes it possible to test every student in America every week.

For Teachers
  • How much class time does testing take?

    We designed the test to take as little class time as possible. It usually takes 10-15 minutes to test an entire class for the first time and speeds up after the first day.

  • Do teachers need to touch the students' swabs?

    No, teachers do not touch the swabs used by students. Students self swab. Our service also offers support staff to help run school testing programs. If a school doesn’t use our support staff, the school’s testing team (which can be school administrators, nurses, teachers, or support staff) only need to open the clean, empty collection tubes and then later close and wipe them with an alcohol wipe we provide after the students drop their swabs into the tube.

  • What is my role as a teacher in classroom testing?

    Some schools conduct testing outdoors or at a central location, like a gym. Others conduct testing in classrooms. In that case, teachers observe from a safe distance while students self-swab.

  • Are teachers included in the classroom pool?

    Some schools include teachers in their classroom pools. Others test teachers and staff separately, especially if they move around to different classrooms. Check with your school about their specific testing strategy.

Our Service
  • How long does classroom testing take?

    Testing an entire classroom usually takes about 10-15 minutes and speeds up after the first day. The students become pros at swabbing their nose.

  • What grade levels can perform their own swabs?

    In our experience, not only can kindergarteners perform their own swabs, they often do the best of all the grades. Our test can be used by any grade, K through 12.

  • How do I sign up?

    Click here to get started! You can schedule time with our team to discuss your school’s options.

  • How do I run a school testing program?

    We’re here for you! The first thing we do with new customers is provide them with comprehensive instructions explaining how to set up and run a testing program. We provide you with all the information you need to make sure everything runs smoothly. As of August 2021, we’ve provided our pooled testing service to over 1,000 schools; we’ve learned a lot about what schools need and are constantly improving our service to better serve you.

  • Why should we pool samples instead of testing individually?

    Pooling covers many people with just one test; this dramatically reduces the cost of testing without sacrificing accuracy, saving your school’s resources. Pooling can also take less coordination, effort, and time from schools, and we’d rather schools use their time with students to educate and enrich them.

    If the pooled test result is negative, it’s unlikely anyone is infected and students continue learning uninterrupted. If the pool result is positive, someone in the classroom is most likely sick; you can then follow up to stop an outbreak—for just the cost, time, and effort of one test.

    When a positive pooled test result occurs, a pod can use diagnostic tests to help confirm who is sick. The decision to do this follow-up testing is up to each school. A common next step is to provide individual testing for students in the positive pool.

     

  • How does classroom pooling work?

    All students in a class, pod, or cohort swab their own noses and place their samples in a single tube (that’s the pooling step). The samples in that tube are then run as a single sample, using one test. See it in action here.

    If students have trouble performing the swabbing, schools can provide a nurse or other trained staff member to help. However, the test is so easy that kindergarteners typically can do it with no issues.

  • How often should schools test?

    The CDC recommends that schools use layered prevention strategies—including testing—to support full-time in-person learning. The CDC also recommends testing at least once per week when using testing programs like our pooled service. However, they suggest considering testing more than once per week in areas with higher rates of community spread. School communities should develop a testing strategy—including the frequency of testing—to meet their community’s needs. (CDC guidance as of August 2021)

  • Why should we test for COVID-19 in schools?

    You know the old saying: “knowledge is power.” Tools like pooled testing empower you to make great decisions. Without knowing the specific prevalence of COVID-19 in your classrooms, it’s tough to make informed decisions about safeguarding your community, returning to school, or continuing in-person learning.

Our Tests
  • Are pooled test results reported to public health authorities?

    No. Since pooled tests do not provide results for individuals, the results are not reported to public health authorities. We only share the results of pooled tests with the individuals that you tell us to.

  • Why isn’t your pooled test FDA authorized?

    One of our pooled tests combines swabs from 5 to 25 people. There are different regulations for tests that provide individual results and tests that provide “population-level” results—that is, results for groups of people. Tests that do not give individual results, like our pooled test, do not require FDA authorization. For more information on how different types of tests are regulated, visit this CDC webpage to learn more.

  • How many samples are included in each pool?

    Each pool consists of samples from 5 to 25 people.

  • How accurate is Concentric’s test?

    Molecular tests, which detect the genetic code of the virus, are typically highly accurate at detecting the virus that causes COVID-19. Click here to read our validation reports for our lab at Ginkgo and our partner labs across the country. Fair warning: the information is a bit dense!

  • How long are the swabs?

    Our pooled test uses short nasal swabs that go just a half inch into the nostril; think: cotton swabs. We do not use the long “brain tickler” swabs for our pooled test. We like to say, “if you can pick your nose, you can take this test!”

  • What types of tests do you offer?

    We offer a pooled test that can test 25 people using one test. Our pooled test works by detecting the genetic code of the virus that causes COVID-19. These tests are sometimes known as “molecular tests” or “PCR tests.” 

    For individual diagnostic testing, we offer rapid antigen and PCR tests. Both of these types of tests can be used as a follow up to pooled testing, to help pinpoint infections.