COVID Testing at CVS

First thing’s first: we’re still in the midst of a pandemic! Wear a mask for the love of all things good and holy. 😷

Here’s a great infographic on protesting and COVID safety. The same can be said for other types of public gatherings of 10 or more people. Shoutout to resisterhoodLA for sharing this and to Mary Kenny for creating it.

Testing guidelines

Today, the CDC announced: “Death rates are 12 times higher for COVID-19 patients with chronic illnesses, according to new CDC report. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published a new report on Monday, which found coronavirus patients with underlying conditions were six times more likely to be hospitalized and 12 times more likely to die when compared to patients with no underlying conditions. The CDC found COVID-19 patients’ most common chronic illnesses to be cardiovascular disease (32%), diabetes (30%), and chronic lung disease (18%).” 

So, you need to get tested?

Have no fear! CVS Pharmacy has you covered – and many locations don’t even require you to leave your car (in fact, you shouldn’t). Let’s start at where you’ll be eagerly greeted by the following header:

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Follow the “Book an Appointment” link. There, you’ll be prompted by a little cartoon human to enter your zip code:

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After entering your zip code, you’ll be asked a series of questions designed to screen folks for testing. Some states have no testing restrictions while other states restrict testing to folks who are high risk, displaying symptoms, and/or have come in contact with a known case of COVID. Answer the questions honestly as they’re designed to ensure folks who need to be tested (versus those who are curious about the test) can access the test in a timely manner. In my case, I recently participated in a highly-attended Celebration for Black Lives and I have asthma. I’ve had a mild cough but no other symptoms and mostly got the test for my peace of mind due to being high-risk.

For my test, I had to schedule an appointment 2 days out as that was the earliest availability. Experts (e.g., the CDC) say to wait about 5-7 days after protesting, gathering, being in densely populated areas, etc., to get tested. Assuming you qualify for testing, I recommend making an appointment through CVS on the 3rd, 4th, or 5th day after possible exposure so you can be tested “on time.” You should receive an email confirmation with further details about your appointment.

Okay, got an appointment. Now what?

First up, pay close attention to the requirements for testing. If being tested at a CVS location, you’ll need to bring the following to your testing appointment:

  • Proof of identity and in-state residence (CVS requires you to be a resident of the state where you are being tested)
  • Medical insurance card
    • If you don’t have insurance, bring your Social Security number (card not needed), driver’s license or state ID.
  • Appointment confirmation email or text message (I was not asked to provide this, but it is listed as a requirement)
  • Mobile phone in case we need to reach you

You also need to follow a few key instructions when you arrive for your appointment. These instructions are copy/pasted from the confirmation email CVS sent me:

  • Wear a face covering at all times. Do not remove it until instructed to do so.
  • Stay in your car when you arrive. Do not go into the CVS store.
  • Procedures vary by location. You may be directed to a drive-thru window, parking space or tent. Follow signage or instructions of staff onsite.

👍🏻 What about the actual test, though?

I pulled up to CVS for my 9:30 am appointment at about 9:20 am. There was another person getting a test in the line ahead of me, and I waited until my appointment time. My location does testing through a drive-thru, so the details below will reflect my experience with that. The test is straightforward, painless, quick, and easy. Here’s how the test goes:

  • You’ll be asked to hold your ID up for the pharmacy tech to validate
  • The tech will confirm your insurance information and prepare your test kit
  • The tech will give you simple, specific instructions about what to do
  • You’ll receive the test kit through the typical drive-thru drawer/tray at CVS
  • The bag/kit will contain a swab, a vile with solution, post-visit papers, a COVID-19 factsheet, a paper demonstrating proper swabbing techniques, a bag to put your swab and vile in, and a bag with 1-2 disinfectant wipes
  • You’ll open the swab(ber?) and insert it 1 inch into your nose. Keep it there, spinning it around a little, for 15 seconds. Switch to the other side and repeat
    • You’ll probably sneeze, and that’s okay. Take the swab out, sneeze, and then resume counting to 15 wherever you left off (I sneezed 4 times)
  • After you complete the swab, place the swab(ber?) into the vile and close it
  • Put the vile with the swab(ber?) into the bag with your patient information, roll it up, and drop it off in the designated box
  • Use the alcohol wipes to clean the top of the lid for the next person
  • The end! You just got COVID tested!

Is it really that easy? What about results?

Yes! It was free, painless (though uncomfortable and made my eyes water a lot), and took less than 10 minutes. In my case, with the drive-thru option, everything was contactless and the CVS pharmacy technician was patient and helpful.

CVS will return my results in 2-4 days through an online patient portal (MyChart) which I received an invitation to about 5 hours after my test was complete.

patient portal

Some closing notes:

Getting tested is important. This is one accessible way you can get a test, but you can find out about other ways through a website like this one

You may not experience symptoms of COVID even if you have an active infection. You may experience symptoms between 2-14 days after exposure. Do not wait to seek treatment or a COVID test if you have difficulty breathing, feel faint, have blue/purple lips, have constant chest pressure, or have other potentially severe health concerns. See below for more detail (source: CVS COVID-19 fact sheet).

Screen Shot 2020-06-15 at 7.27.30 PM

Best of luck! Remember to continue social distancing, wash your hands, avoid touching your faceand wear a mask to protect yourself and others.

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