White House taps retailers to serve as drive-through testing sites

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Walmart's Doug McMillon was among the retail executives present in the Rose Garden when President Donald Trump declared a national emergency to address COVID-19.

White House taps retailers to serve as drive-through testing sites

By David Salazar - 03/15/2020

With the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, spreading in the United States, President Donald Trump on Friday declared a national emergency. Alongside him when he did so in the Rose Garden were top executives from CVS Health, Walgreens, Walmart and Target, who have pledged space outside of their stores for drive-through COVID-19 testing once the administration makes them available more widely following the Food and Drug Administration approval of Roche’s test for the virus. 

“Using federal emergency authorities, the FDA approved a new test for the virus,” Trump said. “We did this within hours after receiving the application from Roche — a process that would normally take weeks.  We therefore expect up to a half a million additional tests will be available early next week.”

Retailers play a critical role in making the test accessible to paitents who are exhibiting common symptoms of the novel coronavirus, Trump said. The retailers have said they will 

“We’ve been asked to make portions of our parking lot available in select locations in the beginning, and scaling over time as supply increases, so that people can experience the drive-thru experience that the President described,” said Doug McMillon, president and CEO of Walmart. “We’ll stay involved and do everything we can from a supply-chain point of view to be of assistance.”

Like Walmart, CVS Health and Walgreens plan to designate areas in the parking lots of select locations where tests will be administered by third-party personnel. “Similar to Doug and Walmart, we’re happy to stand in here and help in communities all across America,” said Richard Ashworth, president of Walgreens. “Because a lot of times, when we have natural disasters, our stores are a beacon in the community, and this situation is no different. So we look forward to partnering with the CDC, the administration, HHS, and the task force, and specifically to the Vice President, who’s doing such a fantastic job.  We’re ready to engage and help.”

Target CEO Brian Cornell noted that the retailers are coming together to fight the pandemic, and that a collective duty to public health is motivating them to set competition aside. “Normally, you’d view us as competitors, but today we’re focused on a common competitor, and that’s defeating the spread of the coronavirus,” Cornell said. “And we look forward to working with the administration to do our fair share to alleviate this growing threat.”

CVS Health, whose executive vice president and chief policy and external affairs officer, Thomas Moriarty, was on hand in the Rose Garden, noted that when the testing sites are up and running, CVS Pharmacy shoppers won’t be impacted. “We expect testing will take place in secure areas of parking lots at select stores — not inside — and individuals being tested will not have to leave their cars,” the company said.