As COVID-19 cases rise across the U.S., grocery stores are doing their part to ramp up testing. The Kroger Co., Walmart, Albertsons, Safeway, and Hy-Vee are among the grocers offering different options for testing, with programs ranging from in-clinic testing to at-home diagnostics, reported Forbes (Nov. 5). The efforts are providing relief to clinics and hospitals while also providing convenience to customers.
The grocers’ increased testing efforts come at a critical time amid a resurgence of coronavirus. The U.S. logged 100,000 new coronavirus cases on Nov. 4, representing the passing of a bleak threshold in the U.S., reported The New York Times (Nov. 5).
Five states set single-day case records on Nov. 4, with the seven-day average of new daily cases nearing 92,000. Deaths related to coronavirus, which lag behind case reports, have increased 21% across the U.S. in the last two weeks.
While consumers seek convenience of testing, retailers are also focusing on accuracy and speed, Forbes reported. Initially, Kroger locations offered in-clinic and at-home COVID-19 diagnostic tests, which included nasal swabs. The grocer recently announced it will also carry the rapid antibody test as COVID-19 cases rise, requiring a finger prick blood sample, in more than 2,200 pharmacies located inside its stores.
Grocers are also collaborating with public and private entities on testing. In Idaho, Albertsons and Safeway are teaming up with the State Board of Pharmacy to give away free COVID-19 saliva tests to state residents. Through the new partnership, customers can fill out a registration form online that a pharmacist at Albertsons or Safeway will review. They then have the option of picking up the test or having it shipped to their home. Albertsons previously partnered with private company Phosphorous to offer at-home COVID-19 saliva tests that show results in 72 hours or less.
Meanwhile, 165 Hy-Vee drive-thru pharmacy locations are offering free drive-thru COVID-19 tests. The grocer first rolled out COVID-19 testing to its pharmacies in August and expanded them in October. The company just announced on Nov. 3 that it expanded COVID-19 testing to 12 additional Hy-Vee drive-thru pharmacy locations throughout its eight-state region, and has expanded testing hours at select locations.
Hy-Vee’s free COVID-19 tests and test results are coordinated by eTrueNorth. Each pharmacy location can accommodate up to 12 patients per hour, and patients do not need to exhibit COVID-19 symptoms to be tested.
Through its partnership with Quest Diagnostics and DroneUp, Walmart is delivering at-home COVID-19 self-collection kits with nasal swabs. The drones are being tested in North Las Vegas and Cheektowaga, NY.
Generally, grocery stores are targeting the convenience of picking up a COVID-19 test while picking up lunch or dinner, Forbes reported. Aware that consumers want fast results with little to no pain, they are moving away from nasal swabs towards at-home saliva tests. They are also creating alternative testing sites and methods for consumers, which should provide relief to the healthcare system.
As they focus on customer testing needs, grocers are also tasked with keeping their essential employees safe. A first-of-its-kind study published in October found that grocery store employees are likely to be at heightened risk of COVID-19 infection. The study, published in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine (Oct. 30), found that those in customer-facing roles are five times as likely to test positive as their colleagues in other positions.
Among those testing positive, three out of four had no symptoms, suggesting these key workers could be an important reservoir of infection, researchers concluded.