UPDATE: April 28, 2020: Kroger Health intends to expand COVID-19 testing to 50 drive-through locations in more than 12 states, and expects to perform as many as 100,000 tests by the end of May, the company announced.
Kroger said it has so far performed almost 8,000 tests at 30 sites in six states, and is administering between 250 and 330 tests per day to patients who remain in their vehicles during the testing process and use kits that allow them to collect samples themselves.
- Kroger is working with the state of Kentucky to test as many as 20,000 people for the novel coronavirus during the next five weeks at several drive-thru testing sites. The grocer is providing medical staff, personal protective equipment, and an online portal for people to sign up for the tests through its Kroger Health unit, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear said during an April 12 briefing.
- The first site opened on Monday in Frankfort, Kentucky, and the state hopes to open another Thursday. Officials hope to announce two more sites next week. There is no cost for the tests, which are expected to nearly double the number of people tested for COVID-19 in the state during the pandemic. Results of the tests will be available within 48 hours.
- Tests at the Kroger-supported sites will be available to people with symptoms of the disease, health care workers, first responders, people 65 or older, and those with chronic health conditions, according to the governor. Grocery workers are not specifically mentioned on the list of those eligible for the tests.
Kroger has positioned itself as a leading voice in the effort to get federal and state governments to protect grocery employees from the coronavirus. The company issued a statement on Tuesday in conjunction with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) that asks government officials to classify people who work in grocery stores as “extended first responders” or “emergency personnel" — designations that would make it easier for them to get tested and access personal protective equipment. Kroger and the UFCW have issued other joint statements intended to safeguard the well-being of supermarket industry workers.
UFCW president Marc Perrone specifically called out Kroger for its efforts to support workers during an April 13 conference call with reporters, during which the union called on Americans to be more cautious when shopping for groceries.
The omission of grocery workers from those specifically listed as eligible for COVID-19 testing at the sites Kroger is helping to operate in Kentucky stands in contrast to the April 10 announcement from Massachusetts that the New England state has started offering free tests to people “who provide critical access to food and other necessities.”
The Massachusetts announcement notes that while grocery store employees need an appointment made in advance by a supervisor or manager, they do not need to be exhibiting symptoms of the disease to qualify for testing. Last week, the state said it had started requiring grocery stores with an occupancy of at least 25 people to limit occupancy to 40% of their capacity.
Other retailers have opened COVID-19 testing sites following an initiative announced in March by President Trump. According to Business Insider, Walmart, Target, CVS and Rite Aid have collectively opened around 25 testing facilities and are planning more in the coming weeks. Walmart currently has four drive-thru testing facilities open on store grounds and plans to have 20 sites open by the end of this month.