How COVID-19 Impacts Pharmacies

Topics: Coronavirus (COVID-19)

Businesses all across the country have reduced hours, staff or closed down operations altogether. Services like those provided by pharmacies, however, have been deemed essential and continue to operate amid the pandemic.

Pharmacists remain on the frontlines, much like health care workers, to help their patients live healthier and safer lives. In some cases, the stores in which they work also operate as a resource for essential goods that a number of grocery stores are experiencing a shortage of. Pharmacies are experiencing shortages of their own, too – for drugs and medical supplies.

In anticipation of being quarantined, patients flooded pharmacies with requests for early refills, leading to shortages for necessities like albuterol – the medication used in inhalers to treat asthma. Cold and flu medications are being cleared out as well.

As customer volume continues to increase for pharmacies, so does the need for employees to help keep operations moving. reports that major chains like CVS and Walgreens plan to recruit nearly 60,000 additional employees combined to fill openings. Many of the job openings will be filled by furloughed workers from the hospitality industry, which has taken a massive hit due to the pandemic.

Keeping Pharmacy Employees and Customers Safe

A dramatic increase in the pharmacy workforce means safety measures need to be ramped up to keep both employees and customers safe. Some of the steps pharmacies are taking include:

Adherence to social distancing rules. Pharmacies are implementing policies like limiting the number of customers in-store at a time, adding taped lines on the ground to certain areas of the store and repositioning shelving to ensure a safe distance between customers as they shop.

Physical barriers. Some pharmacies have resorted to placing a physical barrier, such as a row of tables or chairs (and in some cases plexiglass dividers), in front of the pharmacy counter to keep patients a safe distance away from employees. These areas also include the aforementioned taped lines to ensure a safe distance between customers as they wait in line.

Enhanced cleaning efforts. Employees have been directed to wash hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Countertops, credit card machines, door handles and other frequently touched surfaces are cleaned and disinfected regularly.

Using personal protective equipment (PPE). If available, pharmacies have been providing employees with PPE like gloves and masks to protect themselves and customers during interaction, both in-store at the pharmacy counter and for those working at the drive-through.

Mail, delivery and curbside pickup. Many pharmacy locations have resorted to utilizing drive-through only or curbside pickup for prescriptions. Others are sending prescriptions via mail delivery. Pharmacists are also collecting payment over the phone to eliminate the need for cash or card exchanges.

Updated store hours. To provide the elderly and vulnerable a safer space to obtain their medications, some pharmacies have offered a designated time slot to limit shoppers and potential exposures, much in the way that grocery stores have done for their customers.

AmTrust Works to Ensure All Injured Employees Continue to Receive Medications

AmTrust works with Optum to fulfil prescirptions for injured workers. Optum remains fully operational and has confirmed network pharmacy providers are not interrupted at this time. Early refill restrictions are being waived per state mandate in FL, TN, WV, OK, and MD until the states declare otherwise. The same restrictions will be waived in all other states for the next two weeks, and then Optum will re-evaluate after April 3. Injured employees should be transitioned, if they haven't been already, to larger pharmacies that provide delivery services, such as Walgreens and CVS. Smaller pharmacies may not have capabilities for the delivery of medications.

If an injured employee is being treated for COVID-19, the employee must make Optum aware, so the COVID-19 formulary added to their profile. This formulary will address all cough/cold, non-opioid analgesia needs to COVID-19.

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This material is for informational purposes only. Neither AmTrust Financial Services, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries or affiliates represents or warrants that the information contained herein is appropriate or suitable for any specific business or legal purpose. Readers seeking resolution of specific questions should consult their business and/or legal advisors. Coverages may vary by location. Contact your local RSM for more information.

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