COVID-19 testing for vulnerable populations

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Over the past several months as COVID-19 has hit communities across the country, many people have been asked to stay at home.  But for certain populations, like those who many not be able to afford to stay home from work, essential workers, and people without a permanent home address, quarantining is an even more difficult task.

In some cases, taking public transportation to work or family housing dynamics in homes or apartments may make it more difficult to socially distance or quarantine, which could lead to an increase in possible exposure to COVID-19. There are varying types of barriers that individuals in underserved communities may face that make it difficult to follow all of the public health guidelines recommended to combat the pandemic.  At the same time, lack of access to testing for COVID-19 for some populations can make the pandemic an even greater challenge.

As part of CVS Health’s expansion of COVID-19 testing, we have partnered with community-based organizations to provide testing solutions to at-risk and underserved populations. This includes working with the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SVdP) in Phoenix, Arizona, an organization dedicated to feeding, clothing, housing and healing low-income families.

Beginning in May, CVS Health partnered with St. Vincent de Paul to provide COVID-19 testing at the nonprofit’s Virginia G. Piper Medical & Dental Clinic for the uninsured. Because of the population the clinic serves, the CVS Health and SVdP teams worked together to quickly adjust many standard practices – such as waiving the need for a home address and working with the state of Arizona to ensure people who test positive are given resources and next steps on safely quarantining. Signage and discharge papers are provided in Spanish and English, and most of the on-site CVS Health staff is bilingual, to ensure that patients feel comfortable talking about their health care needs and next steps in their preferred language.

“We’ve seen an amazing response from our community-based testing site in Phoenix,” said Dr. Garth Graham, Vice President of Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer, CVS Health. “We’ve been able to rely on St. Vincent de Paul’s strong presence in the local community and build on CVS Health’s commitment to supporting underserved populations.”

Regular patients of the St. Vincent de Paul clinic who are exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19 are referred to the testing center within the clinic. Patients receive their results within 15 minutes which allows the on-site team to act quickly on next steps and provide them with the added resources they need to safely quarantine and get on their path to recovery.

"We're extremely grateful to CVS Health for helping bring COVID-19 testing to the uninsured patients we serve at St. Vincent de Paul," said Dr. Maurice Lee, SVdP's chief medical officer. "Not only are we increasing access for people who might otherwise go without medical diagnosis, but we're also gaining a better understanding of the spread happening within vulnerable populations and in our community as a whole."

Find no cost COVID-19 testing in your community.

CVS Testing Center associate with swabs
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It’s ‘Time for Care’

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Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, nearly 60 percent of Americans have skipped a health care appointment, according to a June survey from conducted by Morning Consult and CVS Health. To ease fears and encourage Americans to prioritize preventative health, CVS Health launched Time for Care to provide guidance on how to smartly and safely seek in-person care.

To help individuals stay safe in the months ahead, Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, vice president of Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer for CVS Health, weighs in with helpful tips for resuming in-person care.

Dr. Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, Vice President of Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer, CVS Health
Dr. Garth Graham, M.D., MPH, Vice President of Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer, CVS Health

How can Americans prepare for the pandemic’s next phase?

Certain interventions have been shown to be effective on a population level and decrease personal risk: Wash your hands, stay home if you’re sick, maintain social distance and, if you’re going out, just wear a mask. Equally important are monitoring health symptoms that are concerning and having a good relationship with a primary care provider.

We also continue to have a flu vaccine that we know reduces morbidity and mortality, so certainly getting vaccinated and reducing your risk of flu is going to be important.

What precautions would you advise for children back to school?

Given the challenges around making decisions about school, having your own family plan for these different issues and challenges is important.

Familiarize yourself with CDC guidelines for individuals and understand how adherent your school is to CDC guidelines on school re-openings. Also, pay attention to what’s happening locally: This is a local pandemic and what is occurring in one county and in one state is not necessarily the same as what’s occurring in another state.

What questions can people ask their health care providers to help them evaluate whether it’s safe to resume in-person care?

Start off by asking what kinds of safety precautions are in place for your visit. The other thing is to ask about anything that concerns you. Your doctor is there for you and being able to talk about anything that relieves your anxiety is important.

Don’t let fear be an overriding factor for your decisions. Understand the facts. Many institutions have put in place really good protocols, per the Centers of Disease Control’s guidelines, to decrease the potential transmission of COVID-19. Hearing about that directly from your health care providers can help to re-instill your faith that they care about your safety just as much as you do.

Read the full Associated Press Q&A with Dr. Graham.

Helping you prepare for your in-office visit

Talk to your doctor about your concerns. Together, you can decide whether an in-person visit makes sense for you. If so, here are some of the questions you can ask:

  • What should I expect when I arrive at the office?

  • Do I need to bring my own mask?

  • Are staff and patients required to wear masks?

  • Is your staff being tested for COVID-19?

  • How often are the waiting rooms and offices cleaned?

  • Are there separate waiting areas for symptomatic and asymptomatic patients?

  • What should I do if I have had a cough or fever in recent days, recently traveled, or been in contact with someone who has tested positive?

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Episode 1: COVID-19 Response

Episode 1: COVID-19 Response
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Healthy Conversations highlights our innovative approach to health care and is designed to inspire and educate. Our first three episodes will showcase our leadership in the COVID-19 response and the innovative and transformative solutions we’re developing, and feature conversations between CVS Health executives and other industry experts. Each episode includes a video and podcast.

This inaugural episode – COVID-19 Response – focuses on our testing efforts and also includes a discussion of systemic racism in health care and how that is manifesting itself especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Our two hosts Dr. Daniel Kraft and Dr. Dela Taghipour engage in lively conversations with three CVS Health leaders: Chief Medical Officer for CVS Caremark Sree Chaguturu; President of MinuteClinic Sharon Vitti; and Vice President of Community Health and Chief Community Health Officer, Dr. Garth Graham, MPH. In addition, Scott Gottlieb, the former commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, shares his concerns around the need for more testing, especially as we enter the second half of the year.

About the podcast

The accompanying podcast features an in-depth discussion between Dr. Taghipour, whose research has focused on health care disparities, and Dr. Graham. Together they discuss how disparities in health care delivery among minorities have adversely affected them during the pandemic and how CVS Health is working to support these at-risk patients.

The program continues in September and October with two more episodes focused on COVID-19. Those episodes – Recovery and Reset – will take a closer look at the future of medicine and the importance of telehealth during a public health emergency and beyond, and how we are reimagining personalized care and community health.

Subscribe to the Healthy Conversations podcast

Tune in to Healthy Conversations wherever you listen to all your favorite podcasts.

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Heart At Work: Janeika Knight

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Aetna HealthSpire sales manager Janeika Knight finds great fulfillment managing a team of 10 who assist Medicare beneficiaries. She’s also a National Guard medic on the frontline who supports the state of Tennessee by conducting crucial COVID-19 testing in underserved rural communities.

Thank you, Janeika, for bringing your heart to work as a respected and caring manager and for aiding your country at a time when it needs you most. #CVSHeartAtWork

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New Orleans was hit hard by COVID-19

New Orleans was hit hard by COVID-19
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New Orleans was hit hard by COVID-19: music, tourism, and residents alike. We spoke with Dr. Meghan Maslanka (Physician, LSU Medical Center) who worked alongside local officials, like Congressman Cedric Richmond, to retrofit the New Orleans Convention Center as a backup medical monitoring facility to relieve a potential overflow of patients at the city’s hospitals. We also spoke to Leslie Sparks, Shardae Pierre, Kevin Storm, Michael Ogbonna, and Katelyn Schehr from the pharmacy side, who provided support at the Convention Center.


Teaming up to fight the pandemic in New Orleans

New Orleans is no stranger to adversity, and relies on its deep community roots to unite residents as they band together to respond to the pandemic. In this month’s podcast episode, we spoke to Danielle Taylor, a CVS Pharmacy District Leader and both of her parents, Jessie and Thais Ardouin, who were hospitalized at the same time with COVID-19. We also hear from Reinaldo Martinez, a CVS store manager, who is coping with loss in his family and leaning on his love of New Orleans, his coworkers, and staying busy with work to cope.

Several employees and volunteers stand outside of the Canal Street CVS Pharmacy wearing masks, prepared to help those affected by COVID-19.
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Testing Atlanta’s Westside

Testing Atlanta’s Westside
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Atlanta’s Westside has a long history of civil rights activism. The neighborhood was home to leaders like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Julian Bond. Systemic racism has marginalized communities throughout the United States. The consequences can be measured in the health outcomes of people who live in moderate to high need areas like Vine City, where the life expectancy is 13 years shorter than communities only 20 miles away. CVS Health is working to close that gap, alongside the staff at Good Samaritan, a local health center that is now providing free COVID-19 testing to those in the community who need it most.


The importance of testing, the power of community

In the podcast, we explore these topics even more deeply with Breanna Lathrop. We also caught up with Dr. Bill Warren, the visionary who founded Good Samaritan some 21-and-a-half years ago. John Ahmann is the president of the Westside Future Fund and an Atlanta native who brings an historical perspective to the discussion before closing the loop with Makeda Johnson, director and founder of the Sisters Action Team, who draws from her faith and the power of collective action over individualism in supporting her community.

Several people walking into a CVS Health community test center in Atlanta, Georgia.
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Creating safer pregnancies through preeclampsia prevention

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A new, first-of-its-kind initiative designed to prevent the devastating impacts of preeclampsia in pregnant members launched today as part of the Aetna Maternity Program. Building on the enterprise’s long-standing commitment to support expectant mothers on a path to better health, the initiative is focused on preventing this condition, a leading cause of maternal and infant illness and death that accounts for 15 percent of all preterm births in the U.S.https://www.preeclampsia.org/faqs

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. is one of the only high-income countries where deaths related to pregnancy or childbirth are on the rise. This crisis also disproportionately affects Black women.https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/nvsr/nvsr69/nvsr69_02-508.pdfhttps://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternal-mortality/ And, in recent months, the COVID-19 pandemic has created new challenges, as many expectant moms may be attending fewer in-person prenatal care visits that could help detect preeclampsia risks.

“Alarmingly, women today are 50 percent more likely to die in childbirth than their mothers were, and Black women are at an even higher risk. We must do more to address this public health crisis and keep moms and babies healthy,” says Daniel Knecht, M.D., CVS Health’s vice president of clinical products. “The goal of this initiative is to help empower our members to have productive discussions with their providers throughout their pregnancy journey.” 

Empowering safer pregnancies

Amidst the COVID-19 landscape, pregnant women may be attending fewer in-person prenatal care visits and in turn be at higher risk for developing complications that go undetected.

Read the infographic

By leveraging Aetna claims data, the program identifies high-risk pregnant members for individualized outreach and subsequently sends them an engaging, personalized prenatal care kit. Each kit contains educational materials about preeclampsia, along with an 81 mg bottle of low-dose aspirin, an intervention that can substantially reduce the risk for developing the condition. Members also receive an appointment reminder card encouraging them to have informed conversations with their obstetrician about the potential benefits of low-dose aspirin.Note: Pregnant women should always talk to their doctor before starting an aspirin regimen.

Although preeclampsia has no cure, taking one low-dose aspirin a day has been proven to be a low-cost, safe medication that can significantly cut the risk of the condition and some of its complications.https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1704559?query=recirc_curatedRelated_article Despite compelling evidence, providers and patients are largely unaware of aspirin’s effectiveness, highlighting the important need for continued education.

“CVS Health is well-positioned to improve both access to and outcomes of maternal and neonatal health care, including for causes of severe maternal morbidity that is disproportionately experienced among minority women,” noted Joanne Armstrong, M.D., CVS Health enterprise head of women’s health and an OB/GYN. “We have delivery channels that can bring critical information and resources, such as low-dose aspirin, right to members’ doorsteps. This outreach is coupled with a care management program featuring highly trained and dedicated nurses to support the personalized needs of pregnant members.”

The initiative is an exciting and simple way that CVS Health and Aetna are empowering safer pregnancies and connecting expectant mothers with preventative care that meets their unique needs. As part of the Aetna Maternity Program’s efforts, all pregnant members will receive a letter and flyer from the Society of Maternal-Fetal Medicine informing them about preeclampsia and its signs and symptoms.

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Helping members stay well, at home

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In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and other benefit plan sponsors are searching for more ways to support members’ health. People are experiencing both physical and mental challenges as they cope with isolation, economic hardship, disruptions to normal work and school routines, and the virus itself.

CVS Health is making it easier for employers and health plans to meet these growing challenges with the expansion of our Point Solutions Management offering. This program enables plan sponsors to more efficiently administer apps, online trackers and other digital point solutions that support their members’ self-care routines at home.

“Digital point solutions can help people manage important wellness areas like mental wellbeing, fitness and weight loss from the safety and convenience of their own homes,” said Sree Chaguturu, MD, Chief Medical Officer at CVS Caremark. “Employers and other plan sponsors increasingly are looking for better ways to include these kinds of tools in their benefits packages — especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

The recently added solutions have passed CVS Health’s rigorous vendor evaluation process to ensure that they support health outcomes while helping to reduce costs. The five new point solutions available to CVS Caremark clients through Point Solutions Management include:

  • Daylight: A fully automated and highly personalized mobile app to tackle worry and anxiety, based on cognitive behavioral techniques. 

  • Naturally Slim: An online program that uses informative videos and learning tools to teach individuals how to lose weight and improve their overall health.

  • Vida: A weight loss program with an app that pairs individuals one-on-one with a health coach, helping members achieve their health goals through phone and video conversations.

  • WW: Weight Watchers reimagined — A weight loss app providing access to food and fitness trackers, thousands of delicious recipes, and community support.

  • Kurbo: A digital program for children and teens ages 8 to 17 that teaches users how to make healthier choices and lifestyle changes through weekly video coaching, in-app chat, messaging, games, and educational videos.

These solutions join Hello Heart, Hinge Health, Sleepio, Torchlight, and Whil that are available to CVS Caremark clients through our Point Solutions Management program.

Point Solutions Management is a full-service offering that leverages the CVS Caremark pharmacy benefit management (PBM) infrastructure to help clients evaluate solutions, streamline vendor contracting, billing, eligibility verification and reporting. In total, ten solutions are now included as part of the program — addressing a broad range of health care concerns including chronic condition management, musculoskeletal health, stress reduction, mental health management, weight loss, and caregiver support.

This expansion is the latest in CVS Health’s ongoing innovation strategy, focused on meeting emerging client and member needs — while responding to acute concerns arising during the COVID-19 pandemic. We will continue to regularly evaluate and update the offering to include additional vendors that support improved outcomes and help lower costs across key areas of health, including fertility, financial wellness and the social determinants of health.

For plan sponsors interested in learning more about Point Solutions Management, please visit the Point Solutions Management page on our Payor Solutions website.

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COVID-19 resource center

A person, wearing eye goggles and a face mask, looks out of a partially-open car window at a COVID-19 testing site.

Coronavirus is here, and we stand ready to help.

At CVS Health, we work every day to help people on their path to better health. Never has it been more important for us to deliver on our purpose to you, our valued customers, patients, members and employees. We encourage you to use this resource center to better manage your health and wellbeing.

COVID-19 survivors, please consider donating your plasma to help others

Because your immune system fought off COVID-19, you now have antibodies in you that could help others fight it off too.

Learn more about how to donate plasma
A pictogram representing plasma donation.

COVID-19 testing information

We’re helping America on its path forward by making COVID-19 testing more broadly available — from people with symptoms looking for a diagnosis; to the vulnerable elderly and the people who care for them; to faculty, staff and students on university campuses; to underserved populations who are disproportionately impacted by the virus; to the business community as they work to help jump start the economy.

See all COVID-19 testing options Find a CVS Pharmacy drive-thru testing location
A CVS pharmacists speaks to a customer in the drive-thru at a CVS Pharmacy location.

FAQs and resources

Learn more about important COVID-19-related changes to CVS Health’s businesses and what we’re doing to support you.

A pictogram of a stylized coronavirus.

Our commitment to colleagues

To help reduce the risk of exposure, we have taken steps to help protect the health of employees who continue to carry out important work on site at our facilities. We are committed to supporting our employees who may be required to undergo quarantine related to the virus.

Read about our workplace adjustments

Flattening the second curve

To help address America’s expanding mental wellbeing needs, CVS Health is enhancing its nationwide mental health programming effort with new charitable investments focused on health care workers, essential workers and seniors.

Read our actions in response to COVID-19

Heart At Work: Megan Chesnet

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She’s 24, a pharmacy tech and administering desperately needed COVID-19 testing in her Phoenix, Arizona pharmacy.

It’s 8:30 AM and already a humid 92 degrees in Phoenix, Arizona where pharmacy technician Megan Chesnet is at the window ready to greet the first of nearly 60 patients who will drive through for COVID-19 testing. 

“We test approximately one patient every 10 minutes. We’re booked solid.” Megan explains.

In the past weeks, Arizona has been named one of the nation’s Coronavirus hotspots seeing a huge surge in cases just weeks after relaxing safety measures. Schools will now be delayed. Gyms, movie theaters and water parks once open, have been shuttered. Hospital beds are filling, in some areas to capacity. The testing CVS Health and Megan provides is desperately needed.

“When COVID-19 began in March, a lot of people here didn’t take it seriously, they didn’t wear masks and didn’t social distance. Now, they’re scared,” says Megan. “We’re helping people of all ages, even entire families.”
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Already a six-year veteran at CVS, at 24, Megan is remarkable. She easily connects with and comforts patients. And although she can’t hold their hands, she patiently walks them through the testing steps: How to apply the nasal swab, keep it in one nostril for 15 seconds, move it to the next nostril for another 15 seconds, then carefully seal it in a vile and deposit it in a container. “Nothing ever comes back into the pharmacy. I don’t touch anything. I honestly feel safer here than going to the grocery store,” she says.

Most of Megan’s patients are anxious, their symptoms make them feel uncomfortable. They’re worried about next steps and if needed whether hospital beds will be available. “I try to make the process stress free. I tell them we’re in this together,” offers Megan. “I really do care for our patients and I believe they know that care is genuine.”

Megan Chesnet coaches a patient, from behind the window at a CVS Pharmacy drive-thru location, about how to administer a COVID-19 nasal swab test.
Megan tests approximately one patient every 10 minutes.

“Megan was the first in her pharmacy to learn how to administer coronavirus testing and she’s taken the lead on training dozens of pharmacists and pharmacy techs in the region,” explains Region Director Tobin Zdarko. When she graduates from Arizona State University, she hopes to be a CVS Pharmacist.

“Being able to provide testing makes me feel part of something bigger than my work as a pharmacy tech,” shares Megan. “It’s been so positive for me to be involved in my community, to know I’m helping.”

Thank you, Megan, for putting others at ease with your big Heart At Work.

Meagan Chesnet, a CVS Pharmacy Technician, in her Phoenix, Arizona store.
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