U.S. Department of Agriculture: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service


Date of this Version



PLOS Biology June 17, 2021



The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication.


More than 1.6 million Servere Acute Respiratory Syndrome Cronovirus 2(SARS-COV-2)tests were administered daily in the United States at the peak of the epidemic, with a significant focus on individual treatment. Here, we show that objective-driven, strategic sampling designs and analyses can maximize information gain at the population level, which is necessary to increase situational awareness and predict, prepare for, and respond to a pandemic, while also continuing to inform individual treatment. By focusing on specific objectives such as individual treatment or disease prediction and control (e.g., via the collection of population- level statistics to inform lockdown measures or vaccine rollout) and drawing from the literature on capture-recapture methods to deal with nonrandom sampling and testing errors, we illustrate how public health objectives can be achieved even with limited test availability when testing programs are designed a priori to meet those objectives.