Pharmacy & Healthcare

Walgreens COVID-19 Index shows sharp increase in BA.2 omicron subvariant, highlights need for continued testing

Walgreens offers a variety of no-cost testing options to stay healthy and safe.
Steve Rausch, Walgreens Stories
Data from Walgreens COVID-19 Index, the company’s interactive tracking tool created to uniquely identify the spread of current and emerging variants in near real-time, has shown a significant increase in the BA.2 omicron subvariant—also known as “stealth omicron”—across the United States over the last several weeks, raising new concerns over community spread after a period of declining infection rates.

The data, which is based on proprietary information from PCR testing services administered by Walgreens and performed by its testing partner Aegis Sciences, shows an 88 percent increase in omicron BA.2 during the eight-week period between February 25 and April 26, 2022. The data reinforces the importance of testing and other precautions in helping to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re at a stage in the pandemic where on an individual level, we have to evaluate the level of risk we’re willing to take on and the steps we can take to minimize that risk,” says Dr. Kevin Ban, Walgreens chief medical officer. “With mask mandates lifting, many people feel less urgency to get tested because the threat of infection feels more distant. But the Walgreens COVID-19 Index is showing positive BA.2 subvariant cases are on the rise in regions across the country, reinforcing that vigilant testing—along with vaccinations, boosters and oral antivirals—remains an important way to help contain the variant’s spread.”

Walgreens offers a wide variety of no-cost* testing options at its more than 7,000 COVID-19 testing sites across the U.S. and Puerto Rico, ranging from drive-thru PCR testing, to various over-the-counter (OTC) antigen tests. Both PCR and antigen COVID-19 tests help to confirm if you currently have a COVID-19 infection.

What type of COVID test should I take?
Test TypeCostTime RequiredScenario
At-home OTC rapid antigen testNo cost* with most health plans and Medicare Part B15 minutes
  • COVID-symptomatic
  • Need results quickly
PCR test
  • In store
  • At-home (Pixel by Labcorp)
No cost* and free for the uninsured24-48 hours
  • COVID-symptomatic
  • If you plan to be around older or immunocompromised individuals
  • Diagnostic/confirmatory test
  • International travel
In-store rapid NAAT test (ID NOW)No cost* and free for the uninsured
1-2 hours
  • Meets most pre-travel testing requirements (check with your destination to verify)
  • Need results quickly
Over-the-counter testing options

If you’re symptomatic or have been exposed and want to be sure you’re not sick with COVID-19, any of the available OTC COVID test kits provide results in 30 minutes or less. At-home tests were made to be easy to use while providing reliable, quick results. Patients should follow instructions for self-testing provided by the manufacturer.

Walgreens offers OTC tests for purchase at Walgreens stores nationwide, through curbside pick-up, ship-to-home or online, providing test results within minutes, including Abbott's BinaxNOW™ COVID-19 Self Test (2 tests for $23.99) and Acon FlowFlex (1 test for $9.99). 

For reimbursement of over-the-counter tests, most health plans cover a one-month supply of COVID OTC tests through the prescription benefit. Ask your pharmacist if your plan covers the tests as a prescription with no out-of-pocket cost. Customers can also save their receipt and submit a claim through their insurer or Medicare Part B.

PCR testing options

If you’re looking for assurance that you don’t have an asymptomatic case of COVID-19 before visiting an immunocompromised family member, or you don’t want to jeopardize that long-anticipated international trip, get tested with a viral test, with PCR tests being the gold standard for accuracy. Walgreens testing sites can provide results on average within 24-48 hours, so some advanced planning is required.

If you need PCR certainty, but with the speed of an OTC test, in-store rapid NAAT tests like ID NOW are a good option. And for those who want a PCR test, but aren’t able to get to a Walgreens store in person, ship-to-home PCR tests, including Pixel by Labcorp COVID-19 PCR Test ($124.99), are also available.

“This rise in BA.2 cases is delaying us from reaching an endemic state—which means that the illness is more predictable and manageable,” says Ban. When we reach an endemic state, we will have the tools – like vaccines and treatments – available to manage it so we’re not overburdening our healthcare system and we’re reducing severe illness, hospitalizations and death. But until we get there, testing is one of the easiest and most effective ways to prevent virus spread.”
* No-cost COVID-19 testing is available to patients age 3 and older. Patients will not receive a bill from Walgreens or any lab partner. If you receive a Diagnostic Test and have insurance, you will be asked to show your insurance card at the appointment and the lab may bill your insurer. State and federal programs may also provide no-cost testing in your area, click here to view a current list of our government-sponsored testing partners.