EagleHerald Staff Writer

MENOMINEE—The BinaxNOW box sat empty at the CVS store in Menominee Tuesday, reflecting swift sales of the COVID-19 Antigen Self-Test for home use.

“They go out in a day or two when we get them,” said Desserae Ladd, lead technician at the CVS pharmacy in Menominee. “We get numerous calls every day to see if they’re in.”

The regular COVID-19 lab tests and the quick-response tests given at the drive-through at CVS in Menominee also are in high demand, and the increased sales from COVID is spurring the company to staff up and pay more to attract and retain workers.

“We’re booked up every day for the last two months,” Ladd said. “You can only schedule day-of tests. There’s too many people wanting it at the same time. In a small town, you don’t really have many options.”

The scene is playing out at CVS stores throughout the nation, fueling a 14% increase in retail sales, exceeding the company’s expectations.

CVS has made COVID a “critical focus,” said Charlie Minoso-Rice, a CVS spokesman for the Midwest Region. The company has administered 34 million vaccines and 32 million COVID-19 tests across the county so far, he said. CVS has 300 CVS pharmacy locations in Michigan and 80 in Wisconsin.

The company said its relationship with customers is strengthened from “the significant role we play in combating the pandemic in our local communities.”

Besides COVID-19 tests, CVS in Menominee also gives the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to those 18 and older. It’s offering Moderna COVID booster shots to those with a compromised immune system considered at higher risk of COVID.

As one of only a few retail companies where the public can be tested or vaccinated for COVID-19 in many local areas, such as Menominee, the company’s sales and profits are climbing.

CVS reported $1 billion in sales from administering 17 million COVID vaccines and more than 6 million COVID tests during the second quarter, according to a CVS second-quarter conference call with stock analysts.

With many people buying other items when they visit CVS for COVID products and prescriptions, CVS said it is expecting operating profits for Pharmacy Services to come in around $6.5 billion for the full year, up about 14% to 15%.

CVS also is gearing up for a big flu-shot season. About 71% of people intend to get a flu shot this year, compared with about 34% before the pandemic, the company said.

At the Menominee location, Ladd said, anyone can get a flu shot. A doctor’s authorization is not required.

COVID test appointments are scheduled online at CVS.com, and the tests are administered in the drive-through lane. A nurse practitioner reads the results from rapid COVID tests and provides the results in one to two hours. Regular COVID tests are sent out to a lab.

CVS in Menominee is offering Moderna COVID booster shots to those with a compromised immune system considered at higher risk of COVID. The booster is given at least six months after the second vaccination shot was administered.

If customers suspect they have COVID, “We recommend them to take a test or go to urgent care depending on the symptoms,” Ladd said.

A large lit sign outside the Menominee CVS indicates the location is hiring. “We’re very short-staffed,” Ladd said.

“This time of year is traditionally a period of seasonal ramp-up in our hiring, particularly to manage through the flu and holiday season, and we’ve embarked on a nationwide hiring push to continue to respond to community needs during the fall and winter months when the incidence of flu is expected to increase and as COVID-19 vaccination and testing remain in high demand,” Minoso-Rice said.

In August, CEO Karen Lynch said the company will raise the minimum wage it pays to $15 by July 2022. Over three years, the company will spend an additional $600 million more in labor costs to attract and retain workers, including about $125 million in the last four months of this year. “Increasing our minimum wage for hourly employees will help attract and retain the talent needed for our customer-centric business approach,” Lynch said in the conference call.