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CVS Health expands COVID-19 testing services, adds 1,000 rapid-result test sites

Rapid-result diagnostic tests are available at no cost to patients who meet CDC criteria.

Jeff Lagasse, Associate Editor

As part of CVS Health's ongoing effort to increase access to COVID-19 testing and help slow the spread of the coronavirus, the company has announced plans to expand COVID-19 testing services currently offered at select CVS Pharmacy locations to include rapid-result testing at nearly 1,000 sites by the end of the year.
 
Rapid-result COVID-19 diagnostic tests are available at no cost to patients who meet Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria. Such tests may also be available as an option for eligible employees or students affiliated with an organization that has adopted the Return Ready return-to-work COVID-19 testing solution.

WHAT'S THE IMPACT?
 
To date, CVS Health has administered more than 5 million COVID-19 tests since March, and currently manages more than 4,000 drive-thru test sites at CVS Pharmacy locations in 33 states and Washington, D.C. 

Most results from these existing test sites are generally available within two to three days. The company is adapting some of these sites and adding new locations to enable delivery of rapid results at the additional sites. Nearly 100 of these rapid-result test sites will be operational this week.

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Patients must register in advance at CVS.com to schedule an appointment. Testing is also available for patients ages 12 to 17. A parent or legal guardian must complete the online registration and must accompany minors ages 15 and younger for testing.
 
When arriving for testing, patients are asked to follow signage or the instructions of on-site staff. Procedures vary by location, and patients may be directed to stay in their vehicle and proceed to a designated testing structure located in the parking lot or, in very limited locations, to enter a CVS store through a doorway specifically allocated to the purpose. 

Patients will be provided with a test kit, given instructions, and a CVS Health team member will observe the self-swab process. Patients will be directed to wait outside the store in their vehicle for results. The process, from the collection of the swab to the delivery of the results, will generally take about 30 minutes.
 
Patients who access rapid-result testing and receive a negative COVID-19 result will have the opportunity to schedule an appointment at the on-site MinuteClinic for further assessment and to determine if a rapid-result test for flu and strep would be appropriate. The MinuteClinic provider will then be able to provide counsel on a treatment plan and prescribe medications if clinically appropriate.
 
Nearly 100 of the planned rapid-result test sites will be operational at select locations in 22 states as of this week. States include Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Carolina, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia. Patients seeking a COVID-19 test at CVS Pharmacy can find a complete list of locations and options offered here.

THE LARGER TREND

Last week, CVS Health announced plans to hire 15,000 new part-time and full-time employees in the fourth quarter, more than 10,000 of which will be licensed pharmacy technicians to help meet the needs of communities as flu and COVID-19 cases are expected to rise in the coming months.

The remaining on-site positions include pharmacists, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, member-benefit case professionals and distribution center employees.

Also last week, CVS Health CEO Larry Merlo said that, aside from the simple manual tasks of handwashing and mask wearing, testing is an important line of defense against the coronavirus. One of the company's big areas of focus has been on expanding testing capacity, particularly in underserved areas, where the disease has disproportionately impacted minority communities.

The company also factors into the government's plan for vaccine distribution. The Department of Health and Human Services has tapped CVS and Walgreens to provide and administer free COVID-19 vaccines at long-term care facilities across the country. The pharmacies will be provided such a vaccine and associated supplies. They are required to report vaccination data, such as who was vaccinated, with what vaccine and where, to local, state or territorial, and federal public health officials within 72 hours of administering the vaccine.

ON THE RECORD

"Access to rapid-result tests enables us to help minimize community spread of COVID-19 by being able to more quickly identify active COVID-19 infection," said Dr. David Fairchild, chief medical officer for MinuteClinic. "In addition, we can test and treat symptomatic patients who test negative for COVID-19 for seasonal illnesses such as flu or strep and provide appropriate treatment and care."
 

Twitter: @JELagasse
Email the writer: jeff.lagasse@himssmedia.com