Late last month, Governor Andrew Cuomo announced an executive order that will mobilize 5,000 independent pharmacies throughout the state as COVID-19 testing points for first responders, health care workers and essential employees.
However, third generation pharmacist Roger Paganelli, who owns Mt. Carmel Pharmacy at 705 East 187th Street, with his two brothers Michael and Armando, said that test has not yet begun.
He watched the press conference and met with his staff and fellow pharmacy owners, but has been waiting for further instruction from the Department of Health.
“There aren’t any tests for pharmacies that have been approved,” he said. “We are in a holding pattern.”
According to Paganelli, who is on the board of the Pharmacists Society of NY, he had no idea this announcement was coming.
“Those of us who were watching the press conference, our jaws dropped,” he recalled.
Paganelli explained that for a decade he has been advocating for point-of-care testing, which would give pharmacies the ability to prick a finger for blood and get results in a rapid manner.
He noted that people want to return to work, but also need to feel safe. So, having COVID-19 testing at independent pharmacies can only help, he stressed.
If and when the Department of Health contacts him about testing he is ready and willing to start it.
Deemed essential, his business has been busy throughout the pandemic.
Since the COVID-19 crisis began, pharmacies are making special accommodations to deal with this escalating situation, including:
- offering curbside prescription pickup so patients don’t have to get out of their cars
- waiving prescription delivery fees and
- offering pill packaging (individually packaging each day’s medications for patients) for patients whose caretakers can’t be in contact with them.
“It’s been challenging for us,” Paganelli said. “I don’t think anyone could have anticipated what we’re experiencing here.”
His grandfather, Armando owned a pharmacy at 151 and Morris and his father followed in his footsteps when he opened Mt. Carmel in 1964. In 1991, Paganelli and his brothers purchased it from him.
In order to keep his customers and staff safe and healthy, they have instituted new protocols. The store is wiped down hourly, all staff and customers must wear gloves and masks, there is signage on the front of the store, there is a kiosk outside where people can pick up and order medicine, and the hours changed from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. to 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
“My staff and I took every bit of guidance from the governor, mayor and CDC from day one,” Paganelli said. “We felt it was important to limit the exposure of the customers and workers.”