“New York’s hottest club right now is CityMD.” The viral tweet last week by author Dave Quinn reprised a joke that has appeared occasionally during the Covid-19 pandemic. This time, though, it seemed especially on point.
As the Omicron variant has swept through NYC, lines for testing at the popular urgent care clinic chain (as well as at other testing centers) stretched around city blocks. People reported waiting multiple hours to get tested and days for results. CityMD’s clinics were so overwhelmed that the company temporarily closed about a dozen locations due to staffing limitations.
Many pharmacies also ran out of BinaxNOW and other at-home testing kits. The product was no longer available even online from CVS as of Wednesday.
With holiday gatherings around the corner, the Omicron wave in cities like New York is expected to spread across much of the country. Although health officials have said booster shots generally protect against severe illness from the strain, that message isn’t erasing anxieties.
We took a look at four sets of data, three from Thinknum and one from Google Trends, that offer a glimpse into what consumers are thinking about.
Omicron is definitely on the brain
The new variant, which is highly transmissible and appears resistant to the two-dose Covid vaccine regimen, was first identified in South Africa in mid-November. Just five weeks later, it is now the dominant variant in the U.S., making up at least 73% of cases.
As Omicron spread, Covid case numbers jumped. New cases across the U.S. are averaging nearly 160,000 per day, compared with about 75,000 per day in early November.
Intense interest in Omicron is evident in Google search results. This chart from Google Trends shows search activity for the term “Omicron” compared with “Delta,” an earlier worrisome Covid variant, as well as “testing.” The blue is for Omicron, red is for Delta and yellow is for testing. Some "Delta" searches are probably for the airline, and not the Covid strain, but "Omicron" is still comfortably in the lead.
Popularity of search terms on Google
We’re visiting CVS and Walgreens websites a lot
Compared with six months ago, web traffic for top U.S. pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS are way up. According to Thinknum data, daily pageviews per million for CVS were 374% higher on Dec. 20 than they were on June 22. Walgreens’ web traffic was 179% higher. Web traffic for CVS Health, the corporate site of the pharmacy chain, was up 163%.
Meanwhile, Walmart, which is the third-largest pharmacy operator in the U.S. after Walgreens and CVS, has not shown much of a change in web traffic over the past six months. Pageviews were actually down about 3.8% on Dec. 20 compared with June 22.
Speaking of CityMD…
Whether it was because of the long testing lines or the “New York’s hottest club” joke (a reference to former Saturday Night Live character Stefon), CityMD was trending over the past weekend on Twitter.
The largest healthcare chain of its kind in the area, CityMD was founded in 2010 and now has 150 locations in New York and New Jersey. Although New York City operates its own testing sites, and there are other clinics where one can obtain a Covid test, CityMD has become the go-to place for testing in many neighborhoods. Brand awareness has only improved for the urgent care clinic as a result of Omicron. According to Thinknum data, the company’s Twitter following has steadily marched up throughout 2021, and it jumped even more after the onset of the new variant in New York last week.
Other urgent care centers are not as popular (yet)
Twitter follower counts have risen slightly for several different urgent care clinic chains across the country since July, with both the onset of Delta and the latest new variant, Omicron. We looked at some that included Clayton, North Carolina-based FastMed; Mesa, Arizona-based NextCare; Morgantown, West Virginia-based MedExpress; Addison, Texas-based Concentra Health; CVS’s MinuteClinics; and Austin, Texas-based MedSpring.
All except MedSpring are up slightly from six months ago, according to Thinknum data. CityMD has leapt far ahead since Omicron appeared in New York, though. Perhaps, as when Covid originally set in last spring, New Yorkers are feeling some of the worst of it first, with other parts of the country soon to follow. Other urgent care centers across the country might want to get ready for some long testing lines.
About the Data:
Thinknum tracks companies using the information they post online, jobs, social and web traffic, product sales, and app ratings, and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue, and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales.