Mar 29, 2022 - COVID

In search of the Test to Treat COVID program

Illustration of a pattern of covid particles and positive signs turning into each other.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

👋 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."

Context: Test to Treat tries to get early-stage COVID drugs seamlessly to patients, but it has run into snags because pharmacists have limited prescribing power.

  • 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.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Chicago stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Chicago.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more