Thursday's announcement by the White House was part of a series of steps to make Paxlovid easier to access in the United States. It projects that COVID-19 will continue to spread throughout the summer travel season.
Thursday marks the opening of Rhode Island's first federally supported test-to-treat facility. Patients will have immediate access to the drug if they are positive. In the weeks ahead, more federally-supported sites will open in Massachusetts and New York City. Both cities have been hit hard by an increase in infections.
Next week, authorized federal prescribers from the U.S. will travel to Minnesota-run testing locations, where they will be able to treat patients. Federal regulators also provided clearer guidance for physicians to help them manage Paxlovid with other drugs. This was done with the goal of helping prescribers find more ways to give this life-saving medication.
Despite an increase in COVID-19-related deaths across the country, the number of cases has remained stable for the past eight weeks. This is due to the fact that vaccine booster shots have been widely available and treatments have helped to reduce mortality.
Since late March, the number of confirmed infections in the U.S. has quadrupled. They now range from 25,000 per day to more like 105,000 every day. However, deaths have decreased steadily, with fewer than 300 people dying each day.
According to Dr. Ashish Jha, White House COVID-19 coordinator, this is the first time that they haven't merged in the midst of the pandemic. It was a significant development that will help Americans return to normal living, he said.
He said that the most remarkable thing about the recent increase in infections is how consistent serious illness and especially deaths have been eight weeks in. "COVID is not the same killer as it was a year ago," he said.
Jha stated that the increased use of rapid at-home tests has led to a greater number of infections per day, which is double the reported rate. This only makes the plateau in the death rate more important.
He said that vaccines were responsible, but also the more than fourfold increase in prescriptions for Paxlovid's highly effective treatment.
Jha stated that approximately 25,000 to 35,000 Paxlovid courses are being prescribed every day. The drug can be administered within five days of the symptoms becoming apparent. It has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and death rates by 90% in patients most likely to develop severe diseases.
The number of pharmacies that have Paxlovid has increased by almost 40% in the past month due to changes in how it is distributed to states.
Jha stated that "we are now at a stage where I believe fundamentally most COVID death are preventable" and that many of the deaths occurring out there are mostly unnecessarily. He also said that there are many tools available to ensure that people don't die from this disease.