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Local Pharmacies Soon Will Offer Coronavirus Testing

With pharmacies added as testing sites, the state hopes to increase its testing capacity to 40,000 people a day
Photo: Courtesy of Lucas Jackson, REUTERS

Following an executive order last week by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, nearly 5,000 pharmacies across New York are now gearing up to begin testing for COVID-19 on-site.

"We are incredibly excited that the Governor did recognize what pharmacists can do in the midst of this crisis," said Steve Moore, president of the Pharmacists Society of the State of New York.

According to Moore, out of the 5000 pharmacies, nearly half are independent. This could boost mom-and-pop pharmacies, a mainstay in Brooklyn neighborhoods, who can begin diagnostic testing.

However, in the short run, testing would begin in chain pharmacies and later open to independent pharmacies.

Among the two stages of testing, the State is currently implementing the diagnostic 'nasal-swab' test to identify active infection. According to Moore, the second type of testing, an antibody test using a finger-prick model, would be useful once the State begins to re-opening an in anticipation of a possible second wave of infection..

Diagnostic Testing in pharmacies will operate on appointment-only.

This is to avoid the risk of exposure; "If somebody is sick, we don't want them to be walking around looking for a test, " Moore concluded.

The state has a goal to screen up to 40,000 people a day as cases in New York continue to stagnate, the governor said.

There are two types of testing models: the current model whereby the Government provides tests to pharmacies, that will them administer them and ship them off to be analyzed. With the section option,  the pharmacy itself takes the test and analyzes.

While pharmacies in other states have already started conducting tests, New York is yet to catch up as pharmacies in the state have limited scope of practice and have been subjected to a turf war. "In New York, pharmacists have a very restrictive scope of practice, so we have not able to do this until now," Moore said.

"We have been advocating for clear wave point of care testing for a number of years, and we think pharmacists in New York should be able to do this like the rest of the country," he added.

Some of the test manufacturers are not taking on new clients and the best thing that can happen, Moore asserts, is either for the federal or state government to provide pharmacies with the tests they need to administer, adding that the last thing we need at the moment, is "pharmacies bidding against one another for a test."

Currently, pharmacies are working with the State to figure out the logistics of how to distribute them.

Moore, who runs Condo Pharmacy in Plattsburgh, said " Do I need hundreds of tests in my store when they could be used in another area with a higher need? Probably not.