Omicron forces CVS, Walgreens to temporarily shutter stores

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Two of the country’s largest retail pharmacies are temporarily closing stores on weekends due to an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections among staffers.

The two chains said that the rapid spread of the Omicron variant has depleted staffing at several locations nationwide, affecting customer service and delaying key services like medication prescriptions and vaccinations.

Walgreens boasts nearly 9,000 locations across 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. CVS operates around 10,000 pharmacies throughout the country.

Reached by the Post, a spokesperson for CVS declined to specify how many stores were closed and which locations were affected.

“The vast majority of our stores are open on their normal weekend hours,” a CVS spokesperson said.

“A small number of stores may temporarily close on one or both days of the weekend to help address acute staffing issues amidst the Omicron variant surge and a nationwide workforce shortage.”

The company rep added: “This is a fluid, evolving situation and we do not have specific store locations to share.” 

“In the event that a pharmacy is temporarily closed, a patient can visit any open CVS Pharmacy location for assistance with their immediate prescription needs.”

The Post has also sought comment from Walgreens.

Signage outside a Walgreens store in Louisville, Kentucky, U.S., on Monday, Jan. 4, 2021. Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. is scheduled to release earnings figures on January 7. Photographer: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Walgreens, which operates some 9,000 locations across the United States, has also shuttered some stores on weekends as the Omicron variant continues to spread.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

Shares of both Walgreens and CVS made modest gains in trading on Wall Street on Friday.

Even before the spread of Omicron, the two chains slashed hours and increased pay in an effort to address staffing shortages, which have only been exacerbated due to record surges in the number of COVID-19 cases.

An Akron, Ohio resident told The Wall Street Journal that his wife was forced to go 12 hours without prescription pain medication because their local CVS pharmacy closed on short notice.

A Walgreens spokesperson told the Journal: “The ongoing labor shortage, combined with the surge of Covid-19 cases, has resulted in isolated instances in which we’ve had to adjust operating hours or temporarily close a limited number of stores.”

Other large retail chains are also reeling from the effects of the spread of Omicron.

Lululemon Athletica said its holiday business took a hit due to staffing shortages caused by the spread of the variant.

Other retailers have been forced to curtail their hours, including Macy’s. Walmart closed 60 stores in December for 48 hours to sanitize the stores.

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