Kroger gave 250 free COVID-19 tests at a new drive-through site in Frankfort Monday as part of a partnership with the state of Kentucky.
All the tests administered Monday were done for first responders or people deemed high risk, and all tests could be completed by Tuesday night. The testing is part of a partnership between Kroger, the state of Kentucky and Covington-based lab site Gravity Diagnostics.
Currently the location in Frankfort is the only drive-through test site running, but by next week Kroger hopes to add three more.
Gravity Diagnostics is handling these tests, and the small company has amped up production significantly to accommodate the flood of tests. Gravity tore down walls within its facility in Covington to make room for 16 new hires and enough tools to test 50 times more samples than they were previously handling. Their COVID-19 response team has two contracts with the state of Kentucky, allowing them to handle all community health centers and Kroger's new free, drive-through program designed to test 20,000 people.
"We believe this process is the first in the state of Kentucky and maybe across the nation that provides a very easy way for people to register for the test," said Colleen Lindholz, president of Kroger Health.
Governor Andy Beshear announced the partnerships and testing increase Sunday evening, and said the system is intended only for police, fire, EMS, health care workers, those over 65 or those with chronic conditions. Kroger's sign-up site for testing has an online vetting tool that explains to those qualified where and when they can go to receive a test.
Kroger's plan is to test 250 people a day and send the samples via UPS to Gravity. The Covington company usually handles 80 respiratory tests a day, but ramped up production to handle 5,000 with results available in 24 to 48 hours.
"What's keeping our employees going and motivated are these stories where we might have helped a nursing home be able to know who had the virus and who didn't and perhaps save some lives in that scenario, or get a mother who just had a newborn baby at the hospital tested so she can hold her baby for the first time," said Tony Remington, CEO of Gravity Diagnostics.
Plans for similar testing in Ohio has not been announced, and requests for comment from Governor Mike DeWine's office and spokespeople for the Ohio Department of Health have not been returned.