Walgreens to open 15 drive-thru coronavirus testing sites across 7 states

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A health care professional swab tests a patient for coronavirus at drive-through testing outside the Emergency Room entrance at Beth Israel Deaconess Hospital in Milton, MA on March 30, 2020.

Matthew J. Lee | The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Walgreens said Tuesday that it plans to open 15 drive-thru testing locations for the coronavirus across seven states, starting later this week.

The sites will be in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee and Texas, the drugstore chain said in a news release. They will use Abbott Laboratories’ rapid COVID-19 test.

Walgreen’s expansion of drive-thru testing marks the acceleration of an effort that the White House announced more than three weeks ago. President Donald Trump met with leaders of major U.S. retailers and health-care companies March 13 and announced in the Rose Garden that four companies — Walmart, Target, CVS Health and Walgreens — would host drive-thru testing in their parking lots. The U.S. has lagged behind other countries in the availability of coronavirus testing. 

Since then, only about a handful of sites have opened in the retailers’ parking lots. Most are staffed by government health-care workers. Walmart has two drive-thrus and Walgreens has one drive-thru in the Chicago area, but they restrict tests to first responders. CVS has a drive-thru in Massachusetts and said Monday that it would open two new drive-thru locations: one in Atlanta and one near Providence, Rhode Island. These latest sites are not in CVS parking lots, but at larger locations that can support multiple lanes of cars.  

In interviews, Walmart and CVS executives have acknowledged challenges with the rollout, saying it’s been difficult to get protective gear for workers and has taken time to coordinate with state and federal officials.

Walgreens said in a news release that it chose the new sites with the Department of Health and Human Services based on anticipated hot spots for cases of COVID-19. It said it expects to test up to 3,000 people per day across the sites.

Tests will be by appointment only. Walgreens pharmacists will oversee the testing, which will be outside of the stores. Members of the public who show COVID-19 symptoms will fill out an assessment on Walgreens’ website or its app. If they qualify for the test, they will make an appointment for a drive-thru site. 

Testing is free for people who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s criteria. The rapid COVID-19 test, which the sites will use, delivers positive results in as little as five minutes and negative results within 13 minutes.

Walgreens president Richard Ashworth said the pharmacy chain learned how to scale test sites after opening its first location in Massachusetts.

“We’re continuing to do everything we can, both with our own resources and also by partnering with others, to serve as an access point within the community for COVID-19 testing,” he said.

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