A man directs vehicles as they arrive at a rapid COVID-19 testing site in Lowell, MA on April 07, 2020. On Tuesday, April 7, CVS Health will launch the operation of a rapid COVID-19 testing site in Lowell, the first of its kind in the state.
Craig F. Walker | The Boston Globe via Getty Images
CVS Health said Monday that it plans to expand coronavirus testing to nearly 1,000 locations across the country by the end of May and process up to 1.5 million test per month.
But, the company said in a news release, that expansion is dependent on having adequate supplies and lab capacity.
CVS Chief Executive Larry Merlo will join other health-care and retail executives later Monday at the White House for an announcement about the next phase of coronavirus testing. CVS was one of several retailers and health-care companies who met with President Donald Trump on March 13 and pledged to speed along widespread nationwide testing. Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, Target CEO Brian Cornell and other executives took turns at the podium in the Rose Garden. Walmart, Target, Walgreens and CVS committed to hosting numerous drive-thru test sites in parking lots across the country.
More than six weeks later, those retailers have opened only a few dozen locations. Target has not opened any.
Target will not be attending Monday’s White House event, a company spokeswoman said. She said the company is still committed to offering its space for testing, but the retailer does not have medical personnel to run the testing. Its pharmacies are owned by CVS.
In a call with reporters in mid-March, Walmart’s Executive Vice President of Corporate Affairs Dan Bartlett said the opening of more test sites has been delayed by supply issues. He said Walmart struggled to get test kits and find masks, gloves and other personal protective gear for workers.
In late March, CVS chief executive Larry Merlo told CNBC that a lack of protective gear has slowed the effort.
CVS has a total of five testing sites in five different states: Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan and Rhode Island. Most of the sites can do 1,000 tests per day. They are operated by CVS staff and located in large parking lots with enough space for multiple lanes, such as on Georgia Tech’s campus in Atlanta and at Twin Rivers Casino near Providence, Rhode Island. They are using Abbott Laboratories’ rapid testing device, which allows patients to get test results in minutes.
In the news release Monday, CVS said the new locations will be in parking lots or at drive-thru windows near its stores. It said people will have to meet the criteria of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The testing will be by appointment only.
“Our industry has been united by the unique role we can play in addressing the pandemic and protecting people’s health,” Merlo said in the news release. “We all share the same goal, and that’s dramatically increasing the frequency and efficiency of testing so we can slow the spread of the virus and start to responsibly reopen the economy when experts tell us it’s safe.”
This story is developing and will be updated.