Earlier this week, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan issued an emergency order authorizing the state’s licensed pharmacists to test for the novel coronavirus. At the same time, the governor made appointment-free testing available in the state. Referral from a physician is not needed.

Gov. Hogan said he was “actively encouraging the state’s hundreds of pharmacies to directly order and administer COVID-19 tests, another way we can make testing more widely available in our communities.”

Last week New Jersey’s Division of Consumer Affairs authorized licensed pharmacists in the state to administer COVID-19 tests to patients. The authorization added 2,239 potential testing sites in the Garden State. New Jersey has more than 18,000 pharmacists.

“Neighborhood pharmacists are trusted members of their communities and are often a primary source of healthcare services and information for their customers,” said Gov. Phil Murphy at a press briefing. 

Patients do not need a referral for testing of COVID-19 or its antibodies in the state, and pharmacists do not need a collaborative agreement or protocols in place with a physician to perform the testing.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom also permitted pharmacies to begin testing for the coronavirus last week. 

“Ramping up our testing capacity is critical as we begin modifying our stay at home order,” said Gov. Newsom. “In addition to standing up more than 80 new testing sites across the state in under-served communities, soon Californians will be able to get tested when they pick up their prescriptions at some pharmacies across the state.” 

The state hopes the expansion will help boost its current 35,000 tests a day closer to its goal of 60,000 daily tests by the end of the month.

“We have been under-performing as a nation, and as a state, to provide adequate testing for all that seek it and all that need it,” Gov. Newsom said during his daily coronavirus media briefing. “The good news is we are now going to increase additional sites with our pharmacies in the state of California and we hope to start seeing those pop up very, very soon. So that’s also, we think, an important milestone and an effort to broaden coverage for testing.”

While California pharmacists do not have to coordinate testing with a patient’s provider, they must submit the specimens to a public health, commercial, or clinical laboratory for analysis.

Maryland, California, and New Jersey joined 32 other states that have added pharmacies as testing sites in the push to increase testing. Public health officials have repeatedly stated that widespread access to testing underpins safe reopening of states. 

Pharmacists are well suited to perform testing and educate patients who test positive on appropriate home care for mild illness. They can also tell people what signs to look for that might indicate a worsening condition and when to seek care from a physician or hospital. Individuals who have potential symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough, fever, or gastrointestinal distress but test negative may also benefit from a pharmacist’s advice on how to address those issues.

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