Pharmacies step up COVID-19 safety measures while staying open

Investigations

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Curbside is how customers are now picking up prescriptions and other items at Tarrytown Pharmacy near downtown Austin. 

“In the 79 years that we’ve been open, we’ve never had to close our doors before and we never want to, but really our intent is to keep the community safe and prevent the spread of the virus,” says James Cong, Director of Clinical Affairs at Tarrytown Pharmacy.

Customers may not be able to walk into the store, but they can get prescriptions delivered and sent in the mail, as well.

The pharmacy is extending its delivery range. To prepare medications, customers are asked to call ahead. Once outside, Cong says customers can either call the store or text 737-204-9180 with their name, a car description and what needs to be picked up.

“The biggest thing is that we don’t want to put anyone else at risk and ultimately we want to get to the point where we think ‘OK, we don’t know if this entire thing was worth it or not’ and once we are at that point we know that we did enough,” explains Cong.

Flu shots and immunizations are still being given, but also during the curbside services. The pharmacy says they are no longer doing flu or strep testing. Cong explains that they will continue to check employee temperatures before they go into the store as another added precaution.

The new changes come as pharmacies think about employee and patient safety. KXAN investigators started looking into concerns after hearing from pharmacists about interacting with possible COVID-19 patients.

The Texas State Board of Pharmacy says there are no specific rules right now about drive-thru or delivery.

“However, if a pharmacy has a drive-thru, they should try to direct patients – especially if they are sick – to use the drive-thru,” explains Allison Benz, Executive Director of the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. “Delivery is also another good option if the pharmacy can provide a delivery service.”

Walgreens has adjusted its operating hours and encouraging customer to consult their pharmacist either online or by calling. The chain store has also waived pharmacy deliver fees. 

CVS’s Minute Clinic is no longer accepting walk-in patients and those who make appointments online will be pre-screened outside of the clinic. 

The extra safety measures come as the American Pharmacist Association calls for expanded services during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Among the recommended measures, the pharmacy organizations urge the COVID-19 Task Force and appropriate agencies to authorize pharmacists to order, collect specimens, conduct, and interpret tests for various infectious diseases, including COVID-19, influenza, and strep,” says the organization online. “This act would include expanding state pharmacists’ authority to administer all FDA-approved vaccines, including the forthcoming novel vaccine for COVID-19.”

The association also recommends that pharmacists and pharmacy technicians with valid licenses be allowed to operate across state lines, including via telehealth.

The Texas Pharmacy Association has provided safety information for pharmacist on its website including hand washing, using hand sanitizer, wiping frequently touched surfaces along with telling patients to stay home if sick and send a friend instead or use the drive-through, when possible.

“Infection control procedures including administrative rules and engineering controls, environmental hygiene, correct work practices, and appropriate use of personal protective equipment (PPE) are all necessary to prevent infections from spreading during healthcare delivery,” says the association.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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