May 26, 2022 - Health

Rhode Island to open first federally backed COVID site providing anti-viral pills

Paxlovid packet

Photo: Fabian Sommer/picture alliance via Getty Images

The first federally backed "test to treat" site is slated to open in Rhode Island on Thursday, an initiative aimed at expanding access to COVID-19 anti-viral pills as virus cases are rising across the country.

Why it matters: The pills dramatically reduce the chances that someone with COVID will become severely ill, making the medication a key tool for living with the virus, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.

The big picture: The clinic in Providence, Rhode Island, that will serve as the "test to treat" site currently offers vaccinations. The federal support will help transform it "into being a true one-stop shop for individuals to protect themselves and their communities from COVID-19," according to a White House fact sheet.

  • The administration also announced that it will send clinical personnel to several state-run testing sites in Minnesota. Over the next few days, they will help transform them into "test to treat" sites with vaccinations, medical assessments and COVID pills on-site, per the fact sheet.
  • Additional federally supported "test to treat" sites will be launched in the coming weeks in New York and Illinois.

State of play: Launched by the Biden administration back in March, the "test to treat" initiative allows pharmacists to administer antiviral pills on the spot to patients who have tested positive for COVID-19.

  • The use of antiviral pills like Pfizer's Paxlovid — which the administration has sought to make more widely available — has increased in the past few months.
  • Ashish Jha, the White House's COVID-19 response coordinator, told AP 25,000 to 30,000 courses of Paxlovid are being prescribed daily.

What they're saying: “We are now at a point where I believe fundamentally most COVID deaths are preventable, that the deaths that are happening out there are mostly unnecessary," Jha said.

  • "We want to make Paxlovid as widely available across the entire country, so that if you do end up getting a breakthrough infection, you’re still protected against serious illness," he added.

Go deeper: COVID-19 Live Updates: Omicron variant, booster doses, and symptoms

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