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Rockville Centre pharmacies have little guidance on Covid-19 testing

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Although Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order at the end of April allowing independent pharmacies to conduct Covid-19 testing, Rockville Centre pharmacists say they have not received enough guidance about how to proceed.

“This will unlock a network of over 5,000 pharmacies as COVID-19 testing locations,” Cuomo Tweeted on April 25. “Social distancing measures still apply. This will help us meet new lab capacity.”

The executive order permits independent pharmacies to apply to become a limited service lab, or LSL, with a pharmacist as a director. Tom D’Angelo, president-elect of Pharmacists Society of State of New York, explained that the measure is welcome among pharmacies, and a service they “have been asking for for years” — albeit, not like this.

“For pharmacies to be up and running and get protocols in place [for testing] will take a while,” he said, noting that the biggest obstacle will be actually funding and receiving the coronavirus tests.

Howard Jacobson, owner of Rockville Centre Pharmacy and Ryan Medical Pharmacy in Rockville Centre, as well as West Hempstead Pharmacy, said that he and others are still in the process of receiving full guidance from the state department of health on how to proceed with testing.

“I’m really looking forward to doing it because it helps the community and takes some of the load off sites that are doing it,” he said. “We want to start as soon as we can.”

But there are still a lot of unanswered questions, such as where in the pharmacy the testing will take place, how they will acquire personal protective equipment, or PPE, for staff conducting the tests and how to acquire tests.

Anthony Valenti, owner of Valenti Pharmacy, said he would also consider conducting testing, but still doesn’t have enough information to proceed.

“I haven't received any official notification from the governor, no guidelines or training or minimum requirements,” he said. “It would depend. Would it be curbside, would we rope off a section of the pharmacy? I can't even answer those questions.”

Jacobson agreed. “How will you have sick people in [the pharmacy] when you have healthy people who want to be able to come in and not have to fear for their lives?” he said.

Still, he remains determined to find solutions. Jacobson is a board member of the society of pharmacists, which is maintaining contact and attending webinars to determine next steps.

“Every day, we are risking our lives to serve our patients,” he added, “and we want to do as much as we can to eradicate corona and continue to bring good health to our community.”