As more than a dozen pharmacies remained closed after fires and looting in Baltimore, city health officials on Saturday urged people who can't get their medicines to call 311 for help.
At least 13 pharmacies were still closed Saturday, said city Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen. They include two CVS stores that burned and eight Rite Aid stores that were burned or looted during rioting Monday.
"Hundreds of people, if not thousands, are unable to get access to prescription medication — some of which may be lifesaving medication," Wen said. "There is a lot of chaos and unrest in our city, but people still have urgent medical needs."
There are several options for people whose pharmacies are closed, she said. When a resident calls 311, the city's service hotline, someone will help them find the nearest open pharmacy and transfer the prescription. The staff can also help arrange deliveries or transportation for people who need it. Or they will arrange for medications to be picked up at the city's Druid Health Clinic on North Avenue.
Wen vowed that her staff would work to find a way to help everyone who calls. She went door to door Saturday, visiting residents in affected neighborhoods to spread the word. Her agency is also working with churches and community groups.
"Every case is different, but we will find a way for you to get your medication," she said.
Del. Antonio Hayes, a Democrat whose district includes the burned CVS at Pennsylvania and North avenues, said residents of the nearby Penn North Plaza senior building relied on the store not only for medicines but also groceries.
Their Metro stop was closed temporarily last week, so many residents felt trapped, he said.
"You had protesters and media at their front door," he said. "The subway was shut down and they didn't have transportation."
Locally owned pharmacies also suffered, Hayes said.
"I'm happy that the city has stepped in," he said of the Health Department's efforts.
In addition to the closed stores, 14 CVS pharmacies have been closing early, according to the Health Department. An updated list is available at the department's website.
CVS spokesman Michael DeAngelis said the early closures are a response to the city curfew. The company is allowing displaced employees to work at other locations.
"We paid all employees for their regularly scheduled work hours last week, and any employee who wants to work at another CVS location will be accommodated," DeAngelis said in an email Saturday to The Baltimore Sun. "Many have already started doing so."
The federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is investigating fires that happened around the city and has asked people to upload any video they have to http://www.atfbaltimorefire.com.