- Albertsons is partnering with the State Board of Pharmacy in its home state of Idaho to distribute at-home COVID-19 saliva tests for free, according to several Idaho news outlets.
- The tests, which Albertsons and Safeway pharmacies will ship to residents anywhere in the state, typically take less than 72 hours to return results after the sample is received by the lab. People can also opt to pick up the tests at stores.
- A $357,000 grant from the Idaho State Board of Pharmacy has made the tests free to Idahoans, who can access them by filling out an online questionnaire, KTVB reported.
With Kroger having led grocers in offering COVID-19 tests — first to its store employees, then for shoppers across all of its clinics, and just last week adding antibody tests — Albertsons has been working to catch up.
In early September, Albertsons announced it would roll out at-home COVID-19 test kits developed by genomics firm Phosphorus across all of its pharmacies this fall.
The tests that Albertsons and Safeway are providing to Idaho residents are saliva tests, which are less invasive and may offer a faster turnaround than nasal swab tests. And a fast turnaround is essential to narrowing the "window of transmission," to ensure positive patients self-isolate as soon as possible. People can get the free tests whether they have symptoms or not, KTVB reported.
Other grocers and retailers are working to ramp up their COVID-19 testing for shoppers. In August, Hy-Vee started offering free, self-administered COVID-19 tests at 11 of its in-store pharmacies. Walmart is trying out drone deliveries to at-home COVID-19 test kits to shoppers in addition to piloting drone delivery for groceries and other items.
The onset of this year’s flu season, as well as the third wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic in the United States, have made wide availability and free COVID-19 tests even more critical. In the last week, Idaho reported an average of 836 cases per day, an uptick from two weeks ago.
In the absence of a national testing strategy and with no end in sight to the coronavirus pandemic, individual states have been coordinating production efforts of rapid-detection tests. The Rockefeller Foundation has also advised state governors to form compacts with other states to urge private companies to accelerate test production. On Oct. 30, Los Angeles said it would offer free COVID-19 tests to all residents, regardless of whether they are symptomatic.
Evidence of a third wave of the virus has raised concerns about future bottlenecks in the supply chain and backups in labs, which occurred in the summer as many Americans reported lengthy delays in receiving their test results.
Albertsons’ partnership with the Idaho State Board of Pharmacy also comes less than two months after it tapped a former Amazon exec as its new senior vice president of pharmacy and health.