Smyrna Rite Aid offers coronavirus testing on the go

SMYRNA — Carmesha Speight works at the Delaware Hospital for the Chronically Ill, so to her, getting the chance to undergo free COVID-19 drive-thru baseline testing at nearby Rite Aid in Smyrna was a godsend.

Ms. Speight is a certified nursing assistant at the Department of Health and Social Services’ long-term care hospital in Smyrna, which has had two people die from COVID-19 and had at least one employee test positive for the coronavirus.

And even though a handful of workers at the Rite Aid testing site at 200 Pharmacy Drive in Smyrna had to push Ms. Speight’s car out of the testing lane after the battery in her car unexpectedly failed, she was still overjoyed that she was able to get tested for COVID-19.

“It’s actually very exciting,” Ms. Speight said. “I work for the (Hospital for the) Chronically Ill, so testing such as this is a relief. It was fast. You do (the test) yourself so it’s not bad, and it doesn’t hurt. Well, it does make your eyes water a little bit, but it only takes about five minutes.”

Ms. Speight and hundreds of others took advantage of the free COVID-19 testing at Rite Aid on a chilly, breezy Wednesday. The Smyrna site, the first pharmacy to offer free coronavirus testing in Delaware, became one of Rite Aid’s COVID-19 testing sites that are now in 11 locations across eight states.

“Rite Aid is on the front lines in helping Americans cope with the COVID-19 pandemic,” Heyward Donigan, Rite Aid’s president and chief executive officer, said in a statement. “Through our partnership with the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and with tremendous support from state and local officials, we will significantly expand COVID-19 testing to more than 5,000 tests daily in our country’s key hot spots when fully operational.

“We are incredibly proud of the outstanding work and commitment of all our Rite Aid associates both in our stores and at the testing sites who are providing an important and critical service to the communities we serve.”

Stacey Hofmann, spokesperson for the Delaware Division of Public Health Joint Information Center, said that Rite Aid was remiss in not engaging with DPH early on during planning for its testing.

“Yes, the Rite Aid testing is the first non-state coordinated coronavirus testing site,” Ms. Hofmann said. “While additional testing does help the state in identifying individuals who are positive, there are required processes by the Division of Public Health for all testing sites.

“Any pharmacies or other non-health care systems looking to conduct testing for COVID-19 need to include DPH early on in their planning. DPH was not involved in getting the Rite Aid testing program launched.”

Rite Aid said that its COVID-19 testing is taking place through a partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The additional testing is paramount considering DPH announced on Wednesday afternoon there are now 3,200 total laboratory-confirmed coronavirus cases in the state and a total of 89 Delawareans have died due to complications from the virus, ranging from 32 to 103 years old.

Health officials say if individuals test and it comes out to be positive for COVID-19, then they can be treated and quarantined, which can help stop the spread of the virus.

Pooja Gupta, the regional pharmacy leader for Rite Aid, was excited to get Delaware’s first pharmacy testing site up and running in Smyrna.

“This is our first testing site in Delaware, so we want to make it accessible for our Delawareans. Our associates have come all over from Delaware to help us support the site, so we are thrilled to be able to help our community and give it back to them.

“This is for everybody who may be symptomatic per CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines, so they pre-register online through RiteAid.com and then they show up. It’s a drive-in experience.”

The program is intended to expand access to COVID-19 risk screening and testing. It is not intended for people experiencing severe symptoms such as severe cough, severe shortness of breath, severe fever, or other concerning symptoms who may need more immediate medical care.

The baseline testing is available at no cost to eligible individuals who meet criteria established by the CDC. Patients are required to provide government-issued identification, be at least 18 years old and need to pre-register online at www.riteaid.com to schedule a time slot for testing. It is available for people who can drive to the testing site.

“The whole point about these testing sites that Rite Aid has been trying to put up is to make it accessible to anybody who may feel like they’re symptomatic,” Ms. Gupta said. “It’s a very simple, non-evasive method. They are given a swab and they take the swab and they roll it in their nostril for 15 seconds in each nostril and they put it back in the tube and it goes to the lab from there.

“From the time they show up until the time they exit (the testing lane) it probably takes five minutes. They are in and out. Our turnaround for getting results from the tests is two to seven days.”

There are three stations set up in the parking lot, the first one for registration, checking in and verifying information, and the other two are the pharmacist stations where the testing is done from the vehicles. People must remain in their vehicles from the time they arrive until they depart.

“We have the capacity to do around 400 tests every day,” said Ms. Gupta. “We expect to work from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. every day and we will be here (in Smyrna) for five to six weeks.

“Right now, we have six associates helping us. We have two pharmacists and four associates, and we do have field leaders and (Wednesday’s) our first day, so we are here to train them and support them.”

The line of vehicles for 9 a.m. appointments in Smyrna was already around 10-deep before the first test took place on Wednesday.

“The response has been great,” Ms. Gupta said. “Like the first day, as you can see, we’ve been busy with the cars, so it’s fantastic and it’s very rewarding to see patients come in and that we are able to help them. We’d love to see things get back to normal as soon as we can.

“I think from where we started to where we are right now, we’ve come a long way, so it’s amazing.”


Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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