Americans are flocking to pharmacies in search of COVID-19 tests and vaccinations.
Retail pharmacists have told Insider that demand for tests has caused chaos in some stores.
I visited Walgreens and CVS to see what they’re like right now.
First I went to a Walgreens store in Rochester, New York to see if there were any COVID-19 at-home tests or other supplies.
Hours were posted on the door. Some Walgreens locations have cut hours around the country because they don’t have enough workers.
Upon entering the store, there was a small holding area for carts with sanitizing wipes to use on them.
Toilet paper and paper towels were displayed right up front too, and seemed to be well stocked.
I walked up and down the aisles, where the store initially looked like it had at any point in my life.
A few aisles had some empty spaces on shelves, like the deodorant section, but nothing too out of the ordinary.
Some of the empty shelf space may not actually be due to shortages, but instead the result of employees who don’t have time to restock. The orange tags on this aisle were for clearance items, most of which have already been snapped up.
The pharmacy is located in the back of the store, with chairs and waiting areas for people to get vaccinated.
Over-the-counter medications for cold and flu are stocked nearby.
Many of these medications were in low stock, with sections of shelves empty.
The other main section with empty shelves was in a section of COVID-19 prevention supplies, including masks and gloves.
Hand sanitizer shelves were partially emptied, too.
Aisle end caps that looked to be set up to display COVID-19 necessities, like masks, were almost totally emptied.
Cold medicines and supplements promising to boost immune systems also looked picked over, though it is winter.
Some cleaning products, like soap, detergent, and Febreze spray seemed less stocked than normal, although there were still some available.
Otherwise, the Walgreens looked normal and wasn’t very crowded midday on a Tuesday.
The center of the store was already dedicated to Valentine’s Day in mid-January.
Most other customers I saw during my visit made beelines for the pharmacy section of the store, possibly looking for COVID-19 tests.
While most non-medical areas of the store were fully stocked, workers told me that there were no COVID-19 tests.
Next, I went to a CVS about a mile away.
The store was set up very similarly to Walgreens, with empty shelves mostly limited to the cold medicine section.
Cold medicine and pain reliever shelves seemed messy and picked over.
A small area selling air purifiers was also very disheveled.
Like Walgreens, products with immune system-boosting claims seemed to be running low.
Cleaning sprays and Lysol wipes were running low, reminiscent of reports from 2020.
Most hand sanitizers were off the shelves too, except for the CVS store brand.
Also like Walgreens, many of the end caps were dedicated to health and wellness products and looked somewhat messy.
Face masks were displayed in small quantities throughout the store.
Signs throughout the pharmacy area told customers that there were no COVID-19 tests for sale.
Neither store was totally out of anything besides COVID-19 tests, but messy and emptying shelves of masks, cold medicine, and cleaning products definitely reminded me of spring 2020.
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