In Illinois, for instance, omicron comprised 83.8% of positive COVID cases as of Jan. 18. Nationally, that number is more than 95%.
The index is based on data from PCR tests that Walgreens administers and testing partner Aegis Sciences analyzes. Data in the index can track omicron’s spread within 24 hours to 48 hours, according to a news release from Walgreens.
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“We recognized that there continues to be a critical need to help communities, partners and media stay informed about COVID-19 activity in their communities,” Walgreens spokeswoman Rebekah Pajak said in an email. “Walgreens is able to address that need by leveraging data from across thousands of testing locations nationwide.”
The Deerfield-based pharmacy chain has long operated a flu index with a similar objective.
The new index provides an interesting data set, but likely won’t be used by epidemiologists or public officials, said Dylan Finley, a healthcare equity analyst at financial services firm Morningstar. Since it uses only tests given at Walgreens and processed by a certain lab, it’s not as comprehensive as other indexes available.
“(It’s) much more likely to be a casual tool used by your average Joe curious to see the positivity rate in his area,” Finley said.
Releasing the index ultimately could be a marketing move for Walgreens, Finley said. COVID vaccines and testing demand have boosted the company’s margins. “This is a creative way to keep the association between the pharmacy chain and COVID resources,” he said.
This story first appeared in our sister publication, Crain's Chicago Business.