A few dozen pharmacies in the Twin Cities remained closed Tuesday in the aftermath of the riots, a loss of essential services that will take time to resolve and force their customers to look elsewhere for prescriptions.
Cristina Pavlik pulled up to the Walgreens at the corner of 46th Street and Hiawatha Avenue in Minneapolis on Monday to pick up medication for her mom, who has pulmonary disease. But the drugstore, ransacked last week, was boarded up.
“She gets all her breathing medicine here,” said Pavlik. “We have to go over to Bloomington or St. Paul.”
Pharmacies, and the controlled substances they hold, were a particular target for looting in last week’s chaos, even away from Lake Street in Minneapolis and University Avenue in St. Paul, the hardest-hit areas.
Parts of the metro now have no open pharmacy for miles. In other cities across the country, pharmacies have been similarly targeted and damaged.
In south Minneapolis, the Walgreens at Chicago Avenue and 43rd Street is boarded up and its parking lot barricaded after someone forced their way in last week. The Walgreens on East Lake Street six blocks from the Third Precinct police headquarters is a scorched husk.
At least 15 pharmacies were vandalized, looted or set on fire, said Cody Wiberg, executive director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy. More than 100 others closed over the weekend as a safety precaution, but most of those that weren’t damaged have begun to reopen.
“The pharmacies are working as quickly as they can to restore services,” Wiberg said.
Rep. Jim Davnie, a Minneapolis Democrat, said he called a Walgreens executive Sunday and the conversation was encouraging. The executive, Joel Baise, told Davnie “when I saw this was a call from Minneapolis, I knew I had to answer,” Davnie said.
Walgreens has to be sure it’s safe to reopen stores and sort out the licensing to resume filling prescriptions, but the company is “already engaged in getting this issue solved,” Davnie said.
“I’ve got to give them credit,” he said. “They’re trying to mobilize.”
The company left some Twin Cities stores open and abandoned after they were damaged last week.
Before sunrise last Wednesday, someone smashed through the entryway at Walgreens at the corner of 46th Street and Hiawatha Avenue in south Minneapolis. That afternoon, a tall man left the shattered entrance with a plastic bag full of candy. Asked if he was looting a store in broad daylight, the man hurried away. The store remained unattended until neighbors parked out front on Thursday night to discourage looting. Its main door is now boarded up, but its damaged interior, strewn with merchandise, can be seen through windows.
A Walgreens spokeswoman did not provide the number of locations damaged or temporarily closed, but she said customers should consult the store locator on the Walgreens website or app to get the most updated information.
On Tuesday afternoon, that store locator listed about 20 Walgreens around the Twin Cities, most of them in Minneapolis or St. Paul, as being temporarily closed.
CVS has 10 locations still closed around the Twin Cities after 16 were vandalized or looted in some way, according to Amy Thibault, a company spokeswoman. Nationwide, more than 300 CVS locations across 25 states endured some damage as protests swept the country.
She noted that CVS also offers home delivery of prescriptions and has been waiving delivery fees in recent weeks due to COVID-19.
Wiberg said the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy is working with Cub Foods, which is hoping to set up a temporary pharmacy for one of its damaged stores.
The board in the past has dealt with extraordinary events such as river flooding or people fleeing Hurricane Katrina and arriving in Minnesota without prescriptions. “But this is far beyond anything we’ve seen before,” Wiberg said.
On Sunday, the board notified pharmacies that given the circumstances, it is permitting them to fill up to a 30-day emergency supply of medications for new patients if they can’t reach the pharmacy or prescriber as long as they can provide something like a labeled prescription bottle or vial.
A weeklong supply is available for patients who only know the name of the drug. This is a temporary allowance through June 15 and doesn’t apply to some of the more addictive, controlled drugs.
“The board is being very lenient,” said Elias Usso, owner of Seward Pharmacy on Lake Street, which is close to the epicenter of the protests and was damaged by looting and vandalism. He aims to temporarily move his pharmacy to a clinic in northeast Minneapolis
A handful of independent pharmacies reopened Monday.
A flashing “Open” sign alerted passersby that Banadir Pharmacy on Lake Street was open even though its windows were still boarded up. The pharmacy was broken into twice last week.
Lake Cedar Pharmacy on Franklin Avenue, which was looted, reopened with limited inventory.
But Lloyd’s Pharmacy in St. Paul is now a pile of rubble after burning down early Friday morning. It’s the only business for blocks on Snelling Avenue that was a total loss.
It has been rerouting customers to its sister pharmacy, Setzer’s on Rice Street. The two locations have the same owner, and the business has been in operation since 1956, said James Tschida, manager of Setzer’s.
“It’s heartbreaking,” Tschida said. “We stay open because people have come to us for 50 years.”
At Setzer’s, druggists normally fill prescriptions in 15 or 20 minutes, Tschida said. But the business is now so backed up that it can take several hours.
“It’s just kind of a crazy influx,” Tschida said. “Unfortunately we have to tell people either to come back tonight or tomorrow.”