Walgreens has promised to operate 15 new COVID-19 testing centers in “hot spot markets” in Illinois and other states.
But elected officials from the South Side of Chicago, an area that has suffered greatly in the coronavirus pandemic, say they are not getting enough help from the Deerfield-based chain of drugstores. And they have called on the company to open one of the new testing centers on the South Side.
“Folks are dying at a rapid clip, and we’re looking for people like Walgreens to be as helpful as they can to try to quell this,” state Rep. Kam Buckner, D-Chicago, said Sunday.
Buckner and three other elected officials from the South Side sent a letter last week to Walgreens President Richard Ashworth, suggesting a new COVID-19 testing site at 2011 E. 95th Street. That’s the location in the South Deering neighborhood where Walgreens closed a store about six months ago.
The elected officials wrote that predominantly African American neighborhoods on the South Side “have seen some of the highest rates of positive test rates in any community in the Midwest.”
“Despite the staggering numbers, this area is still one of the mostly woefully inaccessible for those in need of testing,” according to the letter, which also was signed by two other Illinois House members from Chicago, Marcus C. Evans Jr. and Curtis J. Tarver II, and 7th Ward Ald. Greg Mitchell.
Walgreens released a statement Sunday saying, “We are continuing to work diligently to expand access to COVID-19 testing. All testing locations are being selected in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as state and local officials. We will be responding to Rep. Buckner directly.”
Walgreens said three of its testing sites are in Illinois, in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood, southwest suburban Bolingbrook and Springfield. Testing is by appointment only, and you first must complete an online assessment at Walgreens.com/Covid19Testing to determine eligibility.
On April 7, Walgreens announced it was opening 15 new sites for free, drive-through testing in seven states, including Illinois. The company said it had opened nine of those sites by April 17 and promised the other new testing centers would be operating by the end of the month.
Walgreens said the sites were “planned for select hot spot markets with escalating rates of COVID-19 cases.”
Evans said Walgreens needs to better serve African American customers whose communities have been hit disproportionately hard by the coronavirus.
“They’ve made billions of dollars off of us,” Evans said of Walgreens. “They have a responsibility in a pandemic. We’re reaching out to them to see, ‘What will you do when we really need you?’ I haven’t got a response.”
Dan Mihalopoulos is a reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.