HHS: Only 5 US Pharmacies Currently Have Capacity to Test for COVID-19
The Department of Health and Human Services said that there are only 5 locations out of 67,000 pharmacy sites with the capacity to test for COVID-19 through the Community-Based Testing Site program.
On March 13, President Donald Trump emphasized the need to implement more testing in the United States for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in a press conference at the Rose Garden, inviting leaders of pharmacy and retail giants to the microphone to praise them for these new efforts.1
However, as of March 31, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) said that there are only 5 locations out of 67,000 pharmacies in the United States that currently have the capacity to test for COVID-19 through the Community-Based Testing Site program, according to HHS.2
On March 13, CVS announced that it would open a drive-thru testing location in a pharmacy parking lot in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts, limited to first responders who are referred by the state and public health officials. The company is not charging for the tests. As of April 6, CVS has added an additional 2 testing sites in Georgia and Rhode Island to provide on-the-spot results for individuals who meet the CDC criteria for COVID-19 symptoms. 3,7
As of March 21, according to the HHS, Walgreens followed suit and opened its first drive-thru testing site in the Chicago area. The site will only be testing first responders and health care workers who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 at this time.4
Rite Aid piloted a COVID-19 testing site in Philadelphia, which began on March 23 and will test 7 days a week from 9 am to 5 pm. Guidance from the HHS led the pharmacy to only conduct tests on health care workers and first responders, regardless of the presence of symptoms.5
As of March 29, Walmart has opened 2 federal drive-thru parking lot testing sites in the Chicago area for frontline workers of the pandemic only.6
In addition to these sites, the Federal Emergency Management Agency says there are 28 federal community-based testing sites that have screened 34,400 individuals; however, these sites have only focused on testing first responders and health care employees and not the general public.1
HHS spokesperson Mia Heck said in a press release that the federal government will "work with partners to make testing more accessible," with no further details on when.1
Editor's Note: This article was updated on April 6, 2020.
- Alesci, Cristina and Collins, Kaitlan. Major retailers have opened only 5 drive-thru testing locations, none available to the general public. CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/31/politics/drive-thru-coronavirus-testing/index.html. Published March 31, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- Nazaryan, Alexander. There are 67,000 pharmacies in the United States. Only 5 are testing for the coronavirus. Yahoo! News. https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus-pharmacies-testing-090055805.html. Published March 30, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- Repko, Melissa. CVS’ first drive-thru coronavirus testing site opens in Massachusetts, focuses on first responders. CNBC. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/19/coronavirus-cvs-opens-its-first-drive-up-testing-site-in-massachusetts.html. Published March 19, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- Walgreens Update on COVID-19 Testing. Walgreens Newsroom. https://news.walgreens.com/press-releases/general-news/walgreens-update-on-covid-19-testing.htm. Published March 22, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- Rite Aid Joins White House COVID-19 Response Working Group [news release]. Camp Hill, PA; Rite Aid Newsroom: March 22, 2020. https://www.riteaid.com/corporate/news/-/pressreleases/news-room/2020/rite-aid-joins-white-house-covid-19-response-working-group. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- Sloneker, Del. Stepping Up and Helping Out: How We’re Supporting Coronavirus Testing Efforts. Walmart. https://corporate.walmart.com/newsroom/2020/03/22/stepping-up-and-helping-out-how-were-supporting-coronavirus-testing-efforts. Updated March 29, 2020. Accessed April 1, 2020.
- CVS Health Announces Opening of Rapid COVID-19 Drive-Through Testing Sites in Georgia and Rhode Island [news release]. Woonsocket, RI; PR Newswire: April 6, 2020. https://prnmedia.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cvs-health-announces-opening-of-rapid-covid-19-drive-through-testing-sites-in-georgia-and-rhode-island-301035609.html. Accessed April 6, 2020.