Rite Aid (RAD -0.43%) on Tuesday announced it would make free COVID-19 testing available to a larger group than before. Adults exhibiting any of the following symptoms -- fever, cough, shortness of breath, chills, repeated shaking with chills, muscle pain, headache, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell -- are eligible for diagnostic screening at one of its 25 self-swab drive-up test sites at no cost. Each site has the capacity to handle around 400 tests daily.
Pharmacists on-site will watch patients self-swab their nasal cavities before sending the samples off to be tested by Opko Health (OPK 4.79%) subsidiary, BioReference Laboratories.
Opko isn't the only partner teaming up with Rite Aid to facilitate these coronavirus tests. Verily, an Alphabet (GOOG -0.45%) (GOOGL -0.51%) subsidiary, is working with Rite Aid to screen patients, schedule their tests, and return the results.
Rite Aid is making use of Verily's Baseline COVID-19 Program, which was initially established in California to securely manage health information in a way that makes it easier for people to participate in clinical research. The program should also make it easier to follow up with people as screening criteria change.
Ideally, everyone would be able to receive COVID-19 tests regularly so that public health officials could monitor the disease's spread and intervene quickly before new breakouts get out of control. Testing capacity is growing, but it isn't anywhere near where it needs to be for the U.S. to have the ability to test everyone who should be tested.
As test availability and processing capacity increase -- and as the Centers for Disease Control updates its COVID-19 testing guidelines -- people who previously were deemed ineligible can become eligible. Those who are initially rejected at Rite Aid by Verily's system will, in theory, receive a notification as soon as they do become eligible.