Coronavirus News Roundup: Pharmacy Students Graduate Early, Job Demand Amid Pandemic

May 15, 2020

Here's a roundup of the latest coronavirus-related news.

As pharmacists and other health care workers hold their ground on the front lines of the coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, global confirmed cases hit 4.4 million, and the United States surpasses 1,400,000.

Here’s a roundup of the latest coronavirus-related news:

Social Media and COVID-19

While a great deal of the country was safe at home, pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, and other pharmacy support staff were on the front lines, taking care of patients amid the chaos of COVID-19.

When polled on social media, pharmacists described personally delivering prescriptions, greatly expanding the delivery radius, donating masks to first responders, and bringing food to nurses at hospitals. Pharmacists also discussed the steps taken to keep the pharmacy as clean as possible and create space for social distancing between patients in line and at the register, as well as sealing off the pharmacy when possible.

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California Pharmacists Granted Authority to Order, Administer COVID-19 Tests

On Tuesday, California Governor Gavin Newsom granted California pharmacists the ability to order and administer COVID-19 tests.

According to the State of California Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), pharmacists may, under certain circumstances, order and collect specimens for authorized COVID-19 tests. Pharmacists may also serve as qualified laboratory testing personnel to perform the tests, but only in an appropriately licensed or registered laboratory, and only under the direction of a laboratory direction, the DCA stated.  

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Pharmacy School Speeds Up Graduation Amid COVID-19

To get pharmacists into the workforce faster amid the pandemic, Purdue University College of Pharmacy in West Lafayette, Indiana, helped its students graduate in record time this spring.

Although there is not a shortage of pharmacists in most areas of the country, having an increasing number of pharmacists available is important for dealing with the ongoing pandemic, Eric Barker, PhD, BSPharm, dean of Purdue’s College of Pharmacy, told Drug Topics®.

“Protecting that workforce is going to be very important, especially as we face potential waves of this pandemic. We don’t know what the demand could be if a major pandemic began to impact the pharmacy workforce,” Barker said. “Independent pharmacies are most vulnerable because they have a small staff and hospital pharmacies are particularly vulnerable because they are working in close quarters.”

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Pharmacy Job Demands Could Grow Because of COVID-19

The growing recognition of the importance of pharmacists and pharmacy staff on the front lines of the pandemic could draw more students to the profession.

Already, there is a heightened demand for retail pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Soon after the pandemic hit the United States in mid-March, CVS said it would immediately fill 50,000 full-time, part-time, and temporary roles in its stores across the country.

“We have many open positions for pharmacists, technicians, and workers with health care training,” Joseph Goode, senior director of corporate communications for CVS Health, told Drug Topics® at the time. Although Goode declined to reveal how many pharmacy-related jobs would be filled, there were numerous postings for pharmacists, pharmacy managers, pharmacy techs, and related positions on the CVS website.

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Investigational Drugs in the Pipeline for COVID-19

Investigators are evaluating a variety of medications for COVID- 19, and the possible treatment landscape is rapidly evolving. There are no FDA-approved medications for the treatment of COVID- 19. Currently, medical management consists of infection prevention and supportive care, which includes supplemental oxygen and mechanical ventilator support when indicated. At least 181 clinical trials were being conducted as of April 14, 2020, comprising studies at the recruiting stage and those that have already begun.

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A Flurry of COVID-19 Studies are Underway, but Scientists Warn a Vaccine Will Take Time

Never before have so many brilliant minds, machines, and groups come together so quickly in an attempt to develop a vaccine. The first human trial involving a vaccine product against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes COVID-19 began in March in Seattle, Washington. However, some experts in the field say creating unrealistic expectations may be harmful and warn that maintaining standard protocols during the pandemic is essential.

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