In the absence of federal guidance, some health officials have forged ahead on their own.
In mid-March, as the number of infections in Nebraska climbed, the state was running out of supplies needed for coronavirus tests. The state lab had for years screened pooled samples of donated blood for pathogens and from pregnant women for sexually transmitted diseases.
Peter Iwen, the lab’s director, estimated that pooling coronavirus samples could conserve supplies and increase testing capacity by at least 70 percent. He tried to persuade officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to allow its assay to be used for pooled testing.
“They told me it’s an interesting concept, that’s as far as it went,” he said.
Dr. Iwen also appealed to the Food and Drug Administration. Officials said the agency could not comment on pending applications for emergency use authorizations.
But Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska had declared