Access to COVID-19 testing is about to get a little easier in the Capital Region. On April 19, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a statewide antibody testing initiative—testing to determine how many New Yorkers have already contracted the potentially deadly virus—and now, on April 22, national pharmacy chain Rite Aid will open a new COVID-19 drive-through testing site at its Colonie location. As part of Rite Aid’s national COVID-19 testing plan, this Colonie popup clinic will be free for those that qualify and marks Rite Aid’s third such testing site in New York State.
“It’s not about the brand or PR for Rite Aid; it’s about helping people and protecting communities,” says Christopher Savarese, Rite Aid’s director of public relations. “That’s our main goal: to keep communities safe and healthy.” For the rollout of these quick, drive-through testing clinics, Rite Aid partnered with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which also worked with local governments to determine the best locations to place the testing sites. The first Rite Aid drive-through testing site opened on March 22 in Philadelphia; just one month later on and there will be 25 across the nation from California to New York with more on the way. (It should be noted that all testing sites are set up in Rite Aid parking lots with tents; testing does not occur under the regular drive-through.)
Those who wish to get tested should go to Rite Aid’s website to take a symptoms questionnaire based on Centers for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines to determine eligibility. If eligible, a popup window will allow potential candidates to make an appointment at a location of their choice. Then, simply go to the location and get tested. “There’s a Rite Aid pharmacist there to guide people through the entire test,” says Savarese about the process, which only takes a few minutes. “It’s not like you’re driving into our parking lot, and someone just hands you something and says, ‘There you go.'”
The test is totally self-administered—a swab in both nostrils—and visitors to the clinic never even leave their cars (in fact, it’s required, per social distancing guidelines, that people remain in their vehicles). The swab is handed back to a Rite Aid pharmacist who then sends it to a laboratory for testing. Those tested should hear back about their results by phone or email within two to seven days.
Savarese says that that response time could fluctuate, too, depending on how many people are getting tested. “The situation with COVID is just so fluid,” he says. “But I always try to look for a positive in something, and one positive that I’ve seen here is how [well] companies and the media have worked together to get the word out about testing like this. It’s really important.”