CVS, Walgreens traveling pharmacists say they could be spreading COVID-19

Pharmacy chains are increasingly relying on traveling workers to fill in for regular employees who test positive for COVID-19, but traveling workers are rarely told if they're working at a store where people have been exposed to the virus, ProPublica reported. 

Traveling employees, called floaters, work at multiple locations to fill in when regular employees are out. Fifteen floaters at both CVS and Walgreens told ProPublica that they aren't given information about whether an employee at the store they're assigned to has shown symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19.

The floaters are worried that they could be at higher risk of both contracting and spreading COVID-19, according to ProPublica

They said they are being given shorter notice than they usually would get about where they'll be assigned to work as pharmacy chains need fast replacements for workers who have tested positive or have symptoms. 

A senior pharmacy tech at a Walgreens in New York City told ProPublica that the use of floaters was "just going to turn pharmacies into hot spots."

Pharmacy chains have refused to tell floaters about potential exposure, citing privacy laws, but CDC guidelines say employers should tell employees about possible exposure in the workplace, according to ProPublica

A spokesperson for Walgreens told ProPublica that to help limit the risk of exposure, it is limiting the number of stores where floaters are assigned and taking steps "to fill open shifts with the same individuals as much as possible." 

The spokesperson also said that when Walgreens is notified of a confirmed or presumptive positive case, its response includes "identifying and contacting individuals who may be at risk in order to self-quarantine or self-monitor their health, as well as cleaning and disinfecting impacted areas of the store or the entire location." 

Walgreens also said that HIPAA and other privacy laws don't stop them from contacting employees who may be at risk of exposure to COVID-19. 

A spokesperson for CVS told ProPublica that the company has several policies to make sure employees are safe, including requiring employees to wear masks, installing protective shields at counters and checkout stations, hourly cleanings of hard surfaces and a wellness and temperature check before an employee begins a shift.

The spokesperson added that all employees, including floaters, are told if they've been in contact with a co-worker who's tested positive and that "employees who were not exposed and work subsequent shifts are in a work environment that has been deep cleaned or has had hourly or more regular cleanings."

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