Earlier this month, President Donald Trump pledged that big-box retailers across the country would develop a large network of coronavirus test sites in the near future. But despite executives of numerous stores agreeing to make it happen, so far only five facilities have opened in the United States.
Walmart, Target, CVS, and Walgreens all agreed to make the vision of widespread testing a reality, according to the Washington Post. Combined, those retailers have 26,400 stores across the country, but so far, Target hasn’t opened a single site. Walgreens and CVS have each opened one site, while Walmart opened two drive-through locations last weekend in the Chicago area. After deciding to join in the effort, Rite Aid established one drive-through facility in Philadelphia.
While declaring a national emergency, the president pledged hundreds of thousands of Americans would get tested at major retailers around the country.
“We want to make sure that those who need a test can get a test very safely, quickly and conveniently,” Trump said in the Rose garden on March 13, as AP News wrote at the time.
But lack of test kits and logistical challenges have forced the Trump administration to step back on its plans to expand the testing network.
Instead, the Post reports, the challenge of testing people who suspect that they have the disease is being left to state and local governments.
In recent days, the FDA approved self-swabbing test kits, and some of the retailers are now hoping to integrate this into their plan to create test sits.
“Four private sector partners – Walgreen’s, Walmart, CVS and Rite-Aid – have successfully launched prototype sites in a period of days. We are working closely with these retailers now to explore the expansion of testing sites across the county, now further enabled by the nasal self-swabbing technique recently approved by the FDA,” said Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary for Health Brett P. Giroir.
CVS said that while their one location has been able to administer about 200 tests a day, they have no concrete plans to open additional centers yet.
“We have not announced any additional sites, and continue to communicate closely with the administration and state officials on the best path forward,” said spokesman Joe Goode.
Walmart, on the other hand, says it is testing about 150 per day at its two locations.
Walgreens said that it is working with the Trump administration to develop its sites, and Target is working with local and state officials to move forward with its plans.
Despite recently signing a $2 billion bill to aid in addressing the pandemic, federal guidance on the testing plan has apparently been lacking.
“There just isn’t a solid plan for how to approach this from the federal level, and that creates a lot of confusion,” said Garrett Contreras, the fire chief in Hayward, California.