A week after the leaders of Walmart, Target, CVS Health and Walgreenspledged have implemented coronavirus tests in their parking lots, the public is still waiting for their wide availability.
So far, only one of the CVS companies has opened a test site. The company opened its first driving test site on Thursday afternoon in Massachusetts, but it is limited to police, fire, nurses and other first responders who are referred by government or public health officials.
Over the next few days, Walmart has announced that it will open two locations, and Walgreens has stated that it will open one location in the Chicago area. Target has not yet announced detailed plans.
None of the four companies indicated when or where they would add more test sites and when the drive-through locations would accommodate the general public.
The slow ramp-up of sites has highlighted concerns expressed by health care systems and criticism from politicians about the shortages of personal protective equipment and the difficulties reaching cities in the United States as and as the coronavirus spreads. , but health care professionals say the tests can help contain the pandemic by encouraging people to self-quarantine and closely monitor their condition so they can get treatment in the hospital, if necessary.
Last week, one of President Donald Trump’s principal advisers on the coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said that the United States could not process the tests as quickly and easily as other countries and described him as ” failure “. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases, made these comments during a testimony before a committee of the House on the level of preparation of the country.
“The idea that whoever gets it easily the way people in other countries do it, we are not ready to do it. I think we should be? Yes. But we are not “Fauci told the committee.
One day after Fauci’s testimony, Trump met with major retailers and healthcare companies across the country for help from the private sector.
Walmart and CVS have stated that they have encountered obstacles, even if they have rushed to open sites. Walmart executive vice president Dan Bartlett attributed the delay to supply issues. He said he was struggling to get the best kits and finding masks, gloves and other personal protective equipment for the workers. He said it has taken time to coordinate with state and federal officials who will also be performing the tests.
Once the Chicago area sites are opened and acted as pilots, he said Walmart wanted to help fill in the gaps where there weren’t enough tests, like in rural areas. He said his pharmacists and technicians could be trained to perform the tests.
The World Health Organization has issued serious warnings about the shortage of personal protective equipment, as health workers and the general public have purchased medical masks, gloves, glasses and gowns. In early March, WHO announced that it had shipped nearly half a million personal protective devices to 47 countries. However, he said it would take much more as the pandemic spreads.
Based on its modeling, the WHO said that approximately 89 million medical masks and 76 million examination gloves would be required each month to respond to COVID-19. He called for a 40% increase in the manufacturing industry and for government officials to encourage more production.
Trump invoked the Defense Production Act on Friday, a Korean War era law that can force U.S. companies to manufacture shortage items such as fans and masks.
Vice President Mike Pence said at a press conference in the White House on Friday that the country “continues to make steady progress in testing” and manufacturing supplies. He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency would provide an update on the tests on Saturday and that the state-based test efforts “are literally increasing hour by hour.”
On the CVS site, the company’s nurse practitioners and pharmacists perform the tests. CVS spokesperson Joe Goode said the company had adequate protective equipment but said it was difficult to launch a drive-in site which is the first of its kind for CVS. For example, he said, the company thought about it and finally decided to close the nearby store.
“There were a lot of operational challenges,” he said. “We wanted to make sure that we set up this test site properly. We worked with local officials. There are a lot of operational considerations to make sure the site was really ready for patients.”
Goode said the company is using the site as a pilot, so that it can then evolve.
Walgreens said in a company statement that its first site will open this weekend in the parking lot of a Chicago area store. It must be staffed by public health personnel. The company said the site will initially test only first responders and then serve the elderly and those with underlying illnesses in the coming days.
The company declared itself “proud to play a decisive role in this public-private partnership and to do everything in its power to help ensure the health and well-being of Americans during the pandemic”.
“Access to tests is essential,” he added.
– Courtney Reagan of CNBC contributed to this story.
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