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CVS Providing Coronavirus Tests in Ethnic and Racial Minority Areas

Analysis  |  By Christopher Cheney  
   April 28, 2020

Members of ethnic and racial minority groups have been disproportionately affected in the coronavirus pandemic.

CVS Health is opening drive-thru testing sites for coronavirus in minority and underserved communities.

Preliminary data suggests ethic and racial minority groups are being disproportionately affected by the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported. For example, a recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report examined data from 580 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. African Americans accounted for 33% of the cases but only 18% of the community population.

There likely are three primary reasons why ethnic and racial minority groups are at high risk of coronavirus infection, the CDC says:

  • Racial and ethnic minority groups tend to have housing conditions that are susceptible to spreading coronavirus such as living in densely populated areas and in multigenerational households.
  • Many members of racial and ethnic minority groups risk exposure working in essential jobs such as the service and agricultural industries, with few telecommuting opportunities. They also tend to work in jobs with no paid sick leave, which encourages employees to work during an illness.
  • Many members of racial and ethnic minority groups have underlying health conditions and poor access to clinical care. For example, African Americans and Hispanics are more likely to be uninsured than white Americans.

Photo credit: CVS Health

CVS Health opens coronavirus test sites in underserved areas

This month, Woonsocket, RI-based CVS Health has opened drive-thru coronavirus test sites in aimed at racial and ethnic minority group populations in five states.

"Testing identification and the subsequent linkage to care that people need is one of the easier strategies to try to impact the pandemic," says Gareth Graham, MD, MPH, vice president of community health and impact at CVS Health, and a former deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Health & Human Services' Office of Minority Health.

Identifying coronavirus infections benefits ethic and racial minority populations, he says. "We are offering rapid testing that allows individuals to get positive results in as little as 5 minutes, and negative results in as little as 13 minutes. The concept of identification is particularly valuable to underserved communities because it is the first step in getting care if needed."

To arrange for the free testing, people register for an appointment on then drive to the testing site. Most of the tests are administered by MinuteClinic staff members who work at local CVS pharmacies. The tests are being offered at off-site locations such as libraries and college campuses in five states: Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Rhode Island.

  • Former Gateway Community College campus at Long Wharf, 60 Sargent Drive, New Haven, Connecticut.
  • Georgia Tech, 352 Peachtree Place, Atlanta
  • Showcase Cinemas, 32 Reiss Avenue, Lowell, Massachusetts
  • Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Avenue, Dearborn, Michigan
  • Twin River Casino, 100 Twin River Road, Lincoln, Rhode Island

"A patient does not need a doctor referral, which is particularly important in low-income communities, where people may not have access to a physician," Graham says.

Outreach and education are key ingredients in the CVS Health testing initiative, he says. "We reach out to communities, so they know where the test sites are, and we have culturally relevant information about other preventative factors that we know work such as social distancing. We have worked with the National Medical Association, which is the national African American physician organization, and local nonprofits in areas where we have our testing sites."

Next month, CVS Health plans to offer self-swab tests at drive-thru locations. The tests will be scheduled online then conducted in parking lots at select CVS pharmacy locations and drive-thru windows. By the end of May, the company anticipates having as many as 1,000 locations across the country for the self-swab tests.

Christopher Cheney is the senior clinical care​ editor at HealthLeaders.


Reasons that ethnic and racial minority groups are being hit hard during the pandemic include housing and high prevalence of underlying health conditions.

The CVS Health testing generates results in under 15 minutes.

The testing is being offered in five states: Connecticut, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, and Rhode Island.

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