In search of the Test to Treat COVID program
👋 Hey, Monica here. I tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday after leaving the Midwest for the first time in two years.
- Instead of sensibly resting, I started calling pharmacies offering antiviral drugs through the federal Test to Treat program.
- The Chicago Department of Public Health offers a list of pharmacies that are supposed to test and treat patients on-site for free as part of the program.
- But after hours on hold with 10 "participating" stores, I found that most had never heard of Test to Treat or were not yet offering it.
Why it matters: With local COVID cases slowly rising and the state closing its testing sites this week, the government will be leaning harder on these public-private programs to address infection needs.
- Plus, our taxpayer dollars bought these antiviral drugs, so the program to distribute them should go beyond promises.
What they're saying: "We are posting information that was provided to us by the federal government," CDPH spokesperson Andrew Buchanan told me Friday.
- "But we're going to change that language on our site to say people can reach out to them to get more information on the program."
- This means participating stores have to rely on in-house medical clinics to do much of the testing and prescribing.
Zoom in: Some Walgreens pharmacists told me the program wasn't currently functional at their location because the in-store Advocate Health Care clinic was closed due to understaffing.
- But an Advocate spokesperson told me that clinic closures are unrelated to availability and that, "we're still evaluating our formal participation in the program."
- CVS reps said they are administering the program through 14 area stores with in-house MinuteClinics, but an online Test to Treat locator says the nearest location is in Highland, Indiana. A spokesperson told me CVS is working on a fix.
What's next: I'm still trying to find a local store that has successfully offered the Test to Treat service.
- In the meantime, some pharmacists recommended I get a prescription for the free antiviral drugs from an urgent care clinic.
As for my COVID recovery, thanks for asking. I'm feeling much better after a weekend of coughing, fever, chills, runny nose, and aches.
- But I'm fully vaxxed and boosted, so it's clear this could've been a lot worse.
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