En español | As the coronavirus outbreak continues to take a toll in the U.S., major pharmacy chains — including CVS, Rite Aid and Walgreens — as well as big retailers such as Kroger and Walmart are stepping up efforts to offer testing options in local communities. All tests are free to patients who meet eligibility criteria established by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Typical symptoms of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, include shortness of breath, fever and cough. Some retailers also are extending testing options to nonsymptomatic health care workers and first responders.
In general, patients seeking testing must first undergo an online screening process to determine eligibility and secure an appointment. Once at a testing site, usually arriving by car, the patient will be asked to self-administer a nose swab under the guidance of a pharmacist or other health care professional. Patients typically remain in their vehicles during testing. Some test results are delivered on-site; most, however, are delivered later by phone or email.
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Michael Mina, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, raises concerns about the effectiveness of self-administered nasal swab tests. “There's some evidence that it does not work as well,” says Mina, who specializes in immunology and infectious diseases. “It might have 15 percent loss in sensitivity, for example. We're trying to understand maybe saliva works better in self-swabbing than nasal pharyngeal swab."
In the rush to combat the coronavirus spread, the Food and Drug Administration has granted what's called emergency use authorization (EUA) to coronavirus tests, which means the tests have not gone through the typically rigorous regulatory approval process. Some retailers are using a rapid test developed by Abbott called ID Now, which can deliver results on the spot. Others are using tests that require swabs to be sent off to central labs for processing to get test results.
"The normal solution that the swab gets placed back into after being taken seems to inhibit some of the Abbott ID Now process, and there's a loss of sensitivity there,” says Mina, who favors tests that are processed in central labs.
Here's a list of retailers offering coronavirus testing, with details on test site locations, types of tests used, wait times for results, and screening and eligibility procedures.
Number of testing sites: Over 50 drive-through locations are currently available in large parking lots identified in conjunction with local officials. The company plans to reach up to 1,000 sites by the end of May. CVS Pharmacy locations with in-store MinuteClinics are being prioritized.
States currently offering testing: Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island.
Type(s) of tests currently offered: Abbott's self-administered ID Now COVID-19 nasal swab test
How to get tested: Patients must answer a few questions online to find out if they qualify for testing. Then, they can select a location site and appointment time online. Patients must bring proof of identity and in-state residency.
Wait time for results: Results may be available in as little as 30 minutes, depending on volume being tested per site. Patients should remain in their vehicles to await the test results and, if positive, treatment plan. If there is a delay in processing, CVS will call the patient with the result within a few days.
Number of testing sites: There are 30 drive-through testing sites at off-site locations such as closed schools, businesses and public grounds. Kroger plans to have 50 locations in 12 states by the end of May.
States currently offering testing: Colorado, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee
Type(s) of tests being offered: Self-nasal swab tests are being provided by eTrueNorth.
How to get tested: Patients exhibiting symptoms, as well as health care workers and first responders, can go to Kroger's Virtual Assessment Tool. If eligible, patients may choose a testing location and appointment time. An email will be sent to activate a patient portal. Make sure to have ID on hand for the appointment.
Wait time for results: Tests results are delivered within 48 hours to the patient portal.
Number of testing sites: There are 71 drive-through testing sites currently available, with the capacity to conduct approximately 5,000 tests a day. The company is working with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to determine expansion plans.
States currently offering testing: Connecticut, Delaware, Idaho, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
Type(s) of tests being offered: Using BioReference Laboratories’ nasal swab tests, which are self-administered under the guidance of a Rite Aid pharmacist. The swab is then sent to a lab. Clinical oversight is being provided by PWNHealth, a provider network, to enable safe and easy access to diagnostic testing.
How to get tested: Rite Aid partnered with Verily's Baseline COVID-19 program, which manages screening, scheduling and return of results. After being screened online, patients will find out if they qualify for testing and where testing can be completed. Verily is owned by Alphabet, the parent company of Google.
Wait time for results: Results are provided in three to five days by phone and email.
Number of testing sites: Walgreens has over 18 drive-through testing locations. It plans to expand drive-through testing to 49 states and Puerto Rico. Walgreens does not offer testing in North Dakota, since the company does not operate in the state.
States currently offering testing: Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas, Washington and Wisconsin.
Type(s) of test currently offered: All current locations are using Abbott's self-administered ID NOW COVID-19 swab test, overseen by a Walgreens pharmacist. Future sites may use this test or LabCorp's COVID-19 self-swab test.
In addition, approximately 100 LabCorp at Walgreens labs within stores will offer antibody blood tests for those who are asymptomatic but believe they had the virus at least three weeks prior. There are plans to expand to up to 170 locations.
How to get tested: Patients must meet eligibility criteria established by the CDC by completing on online health assessment. If you're eligible, a lab order request will be sent to PWNHealth, a provider network, and an e-mail will be sent with next steps.
Rather than sign up for a test, anyone experiencing severe symptoms such as severe shortness of breath, continuous chest pain or pressure, or persistent fever above 102 degrees should seek immediate medical attention, advises Walgreens.
Wait time for results: Patients should receive swab results electronically within about 24 hours. Timing for future tests and locations is still being determined.
Number of testing sites: There are 139 drive-through sites in 22 states.
States currently offering testing: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, Massachusetts and Virginia.
Type(s) of tests being offered: Locations offer either an eTrueNorth or Quest Diagnostics test with a self-administered nasal swab, observed by a trained medical volunteer.
How to get tested: Patients who are exhibiting symptoms of the virus or health care workers and first responders are eligible for testing. Look up which lab is offering services at participating Walmart locations and then schedule an appointment through eTrueNorth or Quest Diagnostics.
Wait time for results: Quest delivers results within an average of two days; eTrueNorth within 24 to 48 hours.
Editor's note: This article has been updated with new testing locations.