How the industry is handling coronavirus

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How the industry is handling coronavirus

By David Salazar - 03/03/2020

Covid-19 has hit the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has seen 60 confirmed cases of coronavirus and six deaths from the illness. 

COVID-19 stems from a member of the coronavirus family that is similar to SARS and MERS, which have seen outbreaks in the past. With experts noting that regularly washing hands or using an alcohol-based sanitizer can help prevent the spread of the disease, preparedness supplies are seeing serious movement at retail. 

Nielsen reported that for the four weeks ended Feb. 22, hand sanitizer sales were up 73% over the prior-year period. Additionally, despite Surgeon General Jerome Adams taking to the airwaves and Twitter to highlight the fact that masks should be used by those experiencing symptoms to prevent spread of the disease, rather than healthy individuals looking to prevent getting sick, medical mask sales saw a 319% percent boost, household maintenance mask sales increased by 262% in the four weeks ended Feb. 22. 

For retailers, this presents supply-and-demand challenge that reaches into the supply chain. For their part, though such retailers as Walgreens and Rite Aid are working to ensure stock. 

“We have been seeing greater demand for certain products, such as face masks and hand sanitizers, in many of our stores,” a Walgreens spokesperson said. “We’re continually and closely monitoring the situation, and continue to work with our supplier partners to best meet the needs of our customers.”

A Rite Aid spokesperson noted that the heavy cold and flu season, coupled with the coronavirus creates a challenge, but that the chain and its suppliers were doing their best to manage inventory. 

CVS Pharmacy issued a statement noting that its emergency response and resiliency and infectious disease response teams were monitoring the situation. Among its efforts have been collaboration to ensure preparedness, developing HR-related guidance pertaining to travel and working from home to keep employees safe and healthy, as well as highlighting awareness of its emergency-preparedness efforts. 

Seattle-based Bartell Drugs is the local chain closest to the front lines, as all six of the fatalities from COVID-19 have been in Washington state. The chain said that high demand for OTC medicines and other readiness supplies has been met with efforts to provide for patients. Additionally, CEO Kathi Lentzsch said that patients might help lower demand with a flu shot. 

“We recommend patients consider a flu shot if they have not been vaccinated against the flu, she said. “This will limit the number of flu cases in our area and enable healthcare providers to be available to those in need.” 

At the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the organization said it was implementing a plan focused on delivering value to its membership on COVID-19-related topics, contributing to the health and well-being of the public and member companies, living up to pharmacy’s reputation for professionalism, trust and accessibility; and furthering the organization’s mission and 2020 strategic vision. 

“In short, NACDS is operating consistently with the urging of government authorities to prepare well, yet to continue on,” an NACDS spokesperson told Drug Store News. “We are coordinating closely with government officials. In fact, the CDC is participating in a call with NACDS chain members today.”

NACDS also noted that it has created an online dashboard for members, as well as an e-hotline they can use to reach the NACDS team, which it said is working on these issues, and other resources.