Taylor Hightower is the pharmacy manager at Drugco at Lake Gaston. 

Think back to March, if you can. Remember what normal looked like? It doesn’t need to be said that a lot has changed, and it remains to be seen what the eventual “new normal” will look like. We’ve all had to be creative, inventive in the way we live in a protected world. Businesses around the lake have long had to be creative in the way they succeed in an area dominated by seasonal ebbs and flow of customers. Drugco at Lake Gaston is no exception, and though the business is well- supported by a local customer base all year round, it was still affected by the changes enforced by COVID-19 restrictions.

Taylor Hightower, pharmacist and pharmacy manager, explained that Drugco closed the doors to public entrance for about a month while still maintaining drive up and delivery service. A lot of customers were surprised to learn that Drugco even had a drive-up window, an option used more often for prescription pick up. But customers quickly learned about the same commitment to customer service offered by their local pharmacy. Any need that could be supplied was met by careful attention to providing what the customer needed. A sympathy card, a birthday card? The staff offered a selection from which to choose. A drink or a candy bar, over the counter medicine? They were all provided as well. Providing for customer needs in this new fashion required the full staff and nothing changed in the way of operations, other than the method of delivery.

Taylor commented that everyone “got their steps in” making the rounds of the store and back to the drive-up window to fulfill orders. Prescription requests did not diminish, in fact they increased as a socially isolated world chose Lake Gaston as the place to work from home. Drugco received prescriptions transfers from New York, New Jersey, Maryland and other states.

As a healthcare provider, the team at Drugco has been committed to providing accurate data to answer questions about COVID. Many calls come in from people seeking reliable information. While they do not do COVID testing, they are able to refer callers to sites that do. The Roanoke Rapids Rural Health Group administers the rapid test, while the RHG in Littleton uses the PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test which generally takes 3-5 days for results to come in but is considered somewhat more reliable. The urgent care, Fast Med, in Roanoke Rapids also administers the PCR on weekends. Tests are offered periodically around the lake region and are generally announced by public media sources.

More recently with the release of vaccines, the Drugco team has fielded questions related to those. Taylor suggests those interested in receiving the COVID vaccine contact their local health department for the most up to date recommendations as well as to schedule your first dose if you fit current criteria. Eligibility requirements have been changing and may vary from state to state, so it is wise to call for the most recent recommendations and locations.

At this time, Drugco does not give the vaccine, though they anticipate that they may provide it at some point. When this time comes, the pharmacy will inform their customers by automated phone call, as they do currently for the flu vaccine.

And speaking of the flu vaccine, there was an early increase in shots given this year as people took seriously the advice to prevent a possible double threat of flu and COVID Taylor says the “lake has been lucky” in that the onset of the appearance of COVID in this area was “pushed off far longer” than in other areas. Until recently there were minimal cases reported and none of Drugco’s team have been infected. Taylor speculates that part of the reason for this may be due to the fact that the overall lake population is older and more concerned about the dangers of undue exposure. Thus they may take to heart advisories to wear masks and practice distancing as well as limiting larger gatherings. It is important to continue to observe these advisories even after receiving the vaccine regiment.

Drugco at Lake Gaston is located at 139 Elams Road across the parking lot from Food Lion. Their phone number is 252-586-3836. Local health department numbers are:

Warren County 252-257-1185

Northampton County 252-534-5841

Halifax County 252-583-5021