Large Drugstore Chains Gearing Up to Offer More COVID-19 Testing

The nation’s largest pharmacy chains are playing a large role in efforts to increase COVID-19 testing across the United States. Find out what CVS, Walgreens, Walmart and Rite Aid all are doing now to expand testing and how they differ in approaches.

WASHINGTON, DC – With constant assurances from federal officials that the availability of COVID-19 testing is being ramped up, large pharmacy chains are doing their part.

CVS Health, the nation’s large pharmacy chain, is working with state governments in Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island to help increase access to rapid COVID-19 testing, according to its website.

From March to mid-April, the company says it had conducted approximately 35,000 COVID-19 tests. CVS Health began operating drive-through rapid COVID-19 testing sites for eligible individuals starting in Georgia and Rhode Island on April 6, 2020, expanding into Massachusetts on Tuesday, April 7 and into Connecticut on Friday, April 17. The Michigan testing location was announced on April 21.

CVS emphasizes that its testing doesn’ttake place at CVS Pharmacy or MinuteClinic locations but, instead, is conducted at large parking lots, identified in conjunction with local officials, that are easily accessible and able to accommodate multiple lanes of cars at one time.

MinuteClinic providers, including nurse practitioners and physician assistants, will be on-site to oversee the testing. Testing will be conducted using the new Abbot ID NOW COVID-19 test, which received emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration for the fastest available molecular point-of-care test for the detection of COVID-19, according to CVS.

Eligible patients are required to pre-register in advance on-line at to schedule a same-day time slot to be tested. 

Walgreens activated its first drive-thru testing site in the Chicago area and is working to expand drive-thru testing to 15 new sites in seven states: Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas. The plan is to be able to test up to 3,000 people per day across the additional sites.

At the testing locations, Walgreens pharmacists will oversee the self-administration of the Abbott’s new ID NOW COVID-19 test, which delivers positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results within 13 minutes.

Rite Aid continues to expand COVID-19 testing sites, with 25 sites as of April 23.The company’s COVID-19 testing is in eight states and 25 store locations, with the goal of conducting about 200 tests each day through online appointments, for a total of 5,000 daily across all locations.

All Rite Aid drive-up COVID-19 testing locations will utilize self-swab nasal tests overseen by Rite Aid pharmacists. The testing will take place in each store's parking lot, and all those tested are required to remain in their vehicles from the time they arrive until they depart.

The company has partnered with Verily and will use its Baseline COVID-19 Program to provide screening, scheduling and return of results to participants for Rite Aid testing sites. Rite Aid also selected BioReference Laboratories to provide COVID-19 laboratory testing to all drive-up locations.

Clinical oversight for the COVID-19 testing program is provided by PWNHealth, a national clinician network that enables safe and easy access to diagnostic testing.

Walmart is working with Quest Diagnostics and eTrueNorth to open testing sites across the country. The plan is for sites to use a self-administered nasal swab test that will allow those being tested to swab their own nose onsite while in their vehicles and drop the sealed sample into a container on their way out of the drive-thru site, according to the company.

Those activities will be observed by a trained medical volunteer to ensure the sample is taken correctly, its staff pharmacists, Walmart says. Its website advises that Quest delivers results within an average of two days, while eTrueNorth delivers results within 24 – 48 hours.

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