On Tuesday, Walgreens Boots Alliance (WBA 0.63%) announced plans to expand a drive-thru coronavirus testing service that can provide rapid results while customers wait. The company's pharmacists will run patient samples through Abbott's (ABT -0.80%) ID NOW machines, which can provide results in less than 15 minutes.   

Walgreens opened its first drive-through testing location in March and is still finalizing plans for the next 15 locations. The company is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to select hot spots in Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas.

COVID-19 test

Image source: Getty Images.

Abbott's toaster-sized testing machines are already popular because they can amplify genetic material from patient samples without the long incubation process that slows down most molecular testing services. The ID NOW COVID-19 test can tell if a sample is positive in as little as 5 minutes, and give a negative result within 13 minutes.

Not to be outdone

This move will make Walgreens the second retail pharmacy chain in the U.S. to offer drive-thru COVID-19 testing at multiple locations. On Monday, CVS Health (CVS 0.61%) began providing Abbott's ID NOW COVID-19 test in two parking lots outside of retail medical clinics it operates in Rhode Island and Georgia.

Between them, CVS Health and Walgreens could do a lot to ramp up the country's testing capacity. Walgreens plans to test up to 3,000 people per day across those 15 locations. CVS Health expects each  of its drive-thru testing sites will be able to process thousands of samples daily.