Amidst the often-grim news and coronavirus bar charts, we see extraordinary actions by everyday Arkansans. The grocery store workers who wake before the sun rises to safely stock our shelves with essentials to keep our families healthy and fed. The teachers who spend hours developing lesson plans to keep children engaged and learning at home. The support staff, nurses, doctors and other health care professionals who, at the end of grueling 12-hour shifts spent in uncomfortable personal protective equipment (PPE), take the time to comfort the worried parents of a sick child.
As we’ve been reminded daily during the coronavirus pandemic, we’re all in this together. And every Arkansan, young and old, must do their parts to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and help protect those most vulnerable among us. Under the strong leadership of Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, the Arkansas Department of Health (ADH), Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. and other elected officials, our state has implemented stringent and effective social distancing protocols. Over the last several weeks, we’ve shuttered our schools, shifted to curbside and takeout restaurant options only and encouraged our businesses, when feasible, to adopt work-from-home policies.
While many residents are slowing down and safely spending time at home, health care workers and hospital staff are busier than ever and are being called upon to do even more. Each day, they wage a full-frontal attack on the coronavirus—even as our nation’s medical system, and its supplies of PPE, are stretched incredibly thin. During this time of extreme uncertainty, community pharmacists, particularly those in small and rural communities without access to primary care doctors or hospitals, have become critical players in our national COVID-19 battle plan.
At Express Rx, we don’t take this responsibility lightly. Like many community pharmacies across the country, we have implemented regular and extensive store cleanings and sanitization guidelines; expanded the use of our stores’ drive-thru windows; implemented no-contact prescription deliveries, including life-saving medications; and made ourselves available to answer questions from concerned patients. We’ve compounded hand sanitizer to meet growing consumer demand while significantly increasing in-store supplies to include more personal and travel-sized options. And we’ve taken swift action, in collaboration with the Arkansas Pharmacists Association and the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, to secure our state’s drug supply chain and bring in the needed quantities of hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin and other prescription drugs to help combat the coronavirus. We remain nimble and prepared, as needed, to adjust, expand or modify these services to help meet changing U.S. Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization and ADH guidance during this time of crisis.
But Express Rx pharmacists are not alone. We’ve seen countless brave, hardworking individuals across our state—from doctors to grocery store workers to health aides at local nursing homes—step up to help their fellow Arkansans in need. In these unprecedented and anxiety-ridden times, it can be all too easy to lose sight of these daily sacrifices. As a state, we must acknowledge and thank these selfless heroes among us.
Galen Perkins is CEO of Express Rx, a Little Rock-based pharmaceutical retailer with 20 store locations in eight states across the Southeast, and the former vice president of pharmacy services for USA Drug.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in op-eds are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Arkansas Money & Politics or About You Media Group.