Labor shortages at the biggest U.S. drugstore store chains force their in-house pharmacies to close on weekends as the COVID-19 omicron variant continues to spread. Pharmacists and technicians are calling out sick, leaving CVS Health Corp. and Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. with no other choice but to reduce hours of operations.
WSJ reports CVS and Walgreens closing pharmacies on weekends is “unusual,” but it reflects today’s environment of pharmacist and technician shortages due to sickness as omicron rapidly spreads.
Both drugstores could not quantify weekend closures because the number each week fluctuates. Customers are already reporting pharmacies have unexpectedly closed in Washington, D.C., New Gloucester, Maine, and New Paltz, New York. There have been instances when people have shown up for scheduled COVID tests to only find out the pharmacy was closed.
Zach Fox of Akron, Ohio, told WSJ his wife had been without pain medication because their local CVS’ pharmacy was closed.
“At this point, I’m getting angry. My wife has now been twelve hours without her pain meds less than two days after a major surgery,” Fox said. “She’s in a lot of pain.”
CVS and Walgreens reassured only a tiny percentage of their stores are experiencing weekend pharmacy closures. Both blamed labor woes related to workers calling out sick.
A staffing crunch has also hit Rite Aid Corp., which announced last month it would reduce pharmacy hours and only allow one hour per day of walk-in vaccines.
The pharmacists and technicians who can work quickly burn out as they must juggle extra tasks.
It’s not just pharmacies that are struggling to stay open. Supermarkets across the country are reducing hours as there are not enough cashiers, baggers, and stockers.