The Kroger Co. is continuing to lead when it comes to the COVID-19 crisis, this time by launching rapid tests at its pharmacies nationwide.
Kroger Health's new offering will inform patients if they've recently been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, with most results confirmed in 15 minutes.
The FDA-authorized rapid antibody tests — conducted using a finger-prick blood sample —are now available at Kroger pharmacies in California (Ralphs) and Michigan, and will be available at all Kroger pharmacies and clinics by the end of November.
Supplied by Federal Way, Washington-based Whitmire Medical, the tests are available to Kroger customers for $25 and typically provide results within 15 minutes. Individuals who believe they may have previously been infected with COVID-19 and aren't currently experiencing symptoms are eligible for the test.
In September, the American Society for Microbiology reported that 73% of surveyed testing labs experienced a shortage of commercial testing kits for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, a capacity challenge that may have hindered testing accessibility for many Americans. As COVID-19 cases continue to rise in many states, Kroger Health's rapid antibody test may provide critical information about past infection to patients who believe they may have been exposed to the coronavirus but were unable to access testing at the time of infection.
"Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Kroger Heath has remained committed to helping people live healthier lives by offering in-clinic and at-home COVID-19 testing solutions supported by our multidisciplinary team of licensed, trained and experienced health care providers," said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health. "Making rapid antibody testing available across our family of pharmacies will not only provide an affordable and convenient testing solution for individuals who want to understand if they have previously been infected with the virus that causes COVID-19, but also help clinicians understand the long-term impacts of COVID-19 and potential public health strategies for fighting the disease."
Kroger Health's rapid antibody tests are conducted by a licensed health professional using a finger-stick blood sample and the Assure COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test Device, a rapid lateral-flow chromatographic immunoassay (configured like a blood sugar test) to detect antibodies to SARS-CoV-2. The test was first authorized by the FDA for emergency use in July and further authorized for broader point-of-care use in September. Kroger is the first retailer to offer the testing solution to its customers.
Research is still underway to determine how long antibodies are present following infection and whether the presence of antibodies provides protective immunity. Regardless of the testing result, all patients should continue to practice FDA-recommended safety guidelines, including social distancing and wearing masks. The Assure COVID-19 IgG/IgM Rapid Test shouldn't be used to diagnose an active infection, as the test only detects antibodies developed in response to the virus, not the virus itself.
In August, Kroger teamed with Gravity Diagnostics, based in Covington, Kentucky, to develop an at-home COVID-19 test capable of returning results in 24 to 48 hours. Samples are collected via mid-turbinate nasal swabs – the same process that Kroger Health has deployed at its COVID-19 drive-thru testing sites, where its multidisciplinary team has collectively administered 150,000 tests.
Kroger Health is the fourth-largest retail health care organization in America, with more than 2,200 pharmacies and 220 clinics in 35 states serving more than 14 million customers.
Cincinnati-based Kroger employs nearly half a million associates who serve 9 million-plus customers daily through a seamless digital shopping experience and 2,757 retail food stores under a variety of banner names. The company is No. 3 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America.