Kroger Provides Coronavirus Tests for Employees
By Jaewon Kang
Kroger Co. said it is providing a coronavirus test for its
employees to use at home, as retailers and other companies redouble
efforts to protect employees and customers amid the pandemic.
Kroger is processing the tests in a partnership with Gravity
Diagnostics LLC, a Kentucky-based laboratory-testing company. The
Food and Drug Administration said it authorized the partnership's
kit in June. Kroger and Gravity said they plan to have the capacity
to process 60,000 tests a week by the end of this month.
"We moved faster on this than we ever have," said Colleen
Lindholz, president of Cincinnati-based Kroger's health-care
business and a pharmacist by training. She said Kroger has spent
millions of dollars on the effort.
Retailers from Walmart Inc. to CVS Health Corp. are running
Covid-19 testing centers at some stores, but few have struck
partnerships to design their own tests for workers. Amazon.com Inc.
said in April that it started assembling equipment to establish a
lab for testing its employees. Nationwide, waits for Covid-19 tests
are climbing because of high demand and supply shortages. Kroger
said it can take as little as four days for people to get their
results from its kit, but the duration depends on how quickly
collection and shipment occur.
The recent surge in coronavirus cases is also pushing companies
to rethink how they are protecting their workers. Kroger and
Walmart said last week that they would require staff and customers
to wear masks in stores.
Gravity Chief Executive Anthony Remington said his company is
opening an additional laboratory in August to process up to 12,000
test results a day from the Kroger kit. The companies suspect that
will be enough to cover Covid-19 cases among the more than 500,000
workers at Kroger's roughly 2,700 stores as well as results from
kits that Kroger plans to sell to other businesses and
universities. Kroger said it is in discussions with manufacturers,
distributors and athletic programs as it pilots the kits with a
smaller pool of employees.
An FDA spokesman said it has authorized 15 so-called in vitro
diagnostic devices for home use, including Kroger's. The spokesman
said these tests have been authorized for emergency use because of
Kroger said it is providing the kits free of charge to employees
who suspect they are infected. Mr. Remington said it costs about
$60 to ship and process a Covid-19 test kit.
To use the at-home kits, employees undergo an online clinical
assessment to receive a prescription for a Covid-19 test. After
they receive the kit in a day or two via United Parcel Service
Inc., they virtually connect with a Kroger health professional who
walks them through using and packaging its nasal swab. Next, they
ship the kit to Gravity's laboratory. Results are communicated
within two to three days.
Gravity, which has quadrupled its workforce to about 180 to
handle more coronavirus tests, said it can process results in under
48 hours. Kroger is funding Gravity's new lab and is training
Kroger's physicians to offer video consulting, which the company
said improves accuracy rates of the tests.
Kroger and Gravity are also working together to process Covid-19
tests at drive-through centers in 19 states. So far, they have run
more than 100,000 tests separate from the at-home kits they
Marc Perrone, president of the United Food and Commercial
Workers International Union, which represents workers at grocery
stores and food-processing plants, welcomed Kroger's testing plan
but said companies should also offer more training to keep
employees healthy and to handle interactions with customers.
"It's better than no testing at all," he said.
Write to Jaewon Kang at firstname.lastname@example.org
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
July 20, 2020 07:25 ET (11:25 GMT)
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