As the home state of CVS Health, Rhode Island has been in a strong position to benefit from a successful vaccine rollout.
The state, which also is the smallest in the nation in terms of its geographical size, had fully vaccinated 59.7% of its population by July 9, including 70.3% of people aged 18 years old and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“We took advantage of our smallness, but we also developed some very good partnerships early on for testing that led to strong relationships when it came time to deliver the vaccine,” said Matthew Lacroix, immediate past president at the Rhode Island Pharmacists Association.
The owner of one of the state’s leading independent pharmacy operators, Eugenio Fernandez of Asthenis Pharmacy, was on the state’s COVID vaccine subcommittee, he said.
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The industry has made a concerted effort to reach underserved communities in the state and has had some success, Lacroix said.
“Because we have such a high percentage of people who have been vaccinated, we are not as worried about the Delta variant, or having to reopen field hospitals and those types of things,” he said. “And we don’t have widespread community spread.”
“Retail pharmacies were the leaders early on, and they have been carrying it,” Lacroix said.
A recent report from Rhode Island real estate firm Hayes & Sherry found that retail has had mixed results in the state, with store development for many businesses “stagnant.”
“However, access to vaccines, improved daily coronavirus testing counts, and consistent government stimulus have started to produce increased market optimism,” the report stated.
The report also noted that retail vacancies have increased somewhat due to store closures and the growth of e-commerce.
“Since April of 2020, available retail space in Rhode Island only increased from 9.1% to 9.6%, showing retailers’ determination to persevere through the challenging environment,” the report said. “The overall retail vacancy has been slowly increasing for several years, as the consumer trend of buying more online is not a new one, but it has been accelerated by the pandemic.”
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A report from Capstone Partners, meanwhile, highlighted the opportunities for some retailers, including those offering drive-thru services.
“While retail has been challenging, buyers continue to search for the best locations, and opportunistic retail and food services are completing lease transactions,” the report said. “Properties with drive-up windows are in strong demand.”
CVS Health, meanwhile, began rolling out its new CVS HealthHUB format in Rhode Island last year as part of an aggressive nationwide expansion of the format, which offers expanded healthcare services. The chain opened 650 HealthHUBs in total last year and plans to have 1,500 of them by the end of this year.