California Pharmacies Close After Protests, Leaving Patients Scrambling

In Miami, Florida, protesters form a line in front of a CVS store to avoid people breaking the windows during a rally in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who died while in police custody in Minneapolis.  (RICARDO ARDUENGO/AFP via Getty Images)

Pharmacies across the country took a hit in recent days when some of the protests over the death of George Floyd caused damage to stores.

"About 400 CVS Pharmacy locations across 25 states have experienced varying levels of damage over the past several days," said Amy Lanctot Thibault, a spokesperson for CVS Health, in an email.

Thibault confirmed 18 CVS stores in San Francisco and six in Oakland are currently closed. Walgreens has also shut or reduced the hours at many of its locations in urban centers spanning from Sacramento to Los Angeles.

Jesus Guillen found out Wednesday morning that his local CVS on San Francisco's Haight Street was closed when he called the store to renew a prescription and his call was transferred to a location that is a 30-minute drive south in San Bruno.

Guillen panicked. The 65-year-old can't just zip down Interstate 280 to retrieve his medicine. He doesn't have a car, he lives with his aging mother, and public transit is spotty because of the pandemic. He also suffers from chronic, debilitating pain.

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"I take oxycodone in the morning and Norco when needed," said Guillen, who has been HIV-positive for 36 years and won a battle against cancer 10 years ago. "It just happened that this is the time to renew my prescription."

In two days, Guillen says he will run out of the controlled substances that help him get through his day, and he fears going through withdrawal if he can't pick up his new prescription.

He's now waiting for a call back from his doctor to see if his pain meds can be sent to a nearby hospital, because controlled substances cannot be delivered to a person's home legally. He is also anticipating having to endure a hassle with his insurance company as he tries to get approval for the prescription transfer.

Representatives for Walgreens and CVS say stores will reopen as soon as current damage is repaired and they feel it is safe to do so.