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People who test positive for Covid can receive antiviral pills at pharmacies for free, Biden says

Paxlovid, a Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pill, is seen manufactured in Ascoli, Italy, in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on November 16, 2021.

Pfizer | Handout | via Reuters

President Joe Biden on Tuesday said the Americans who test positive for Covid-19 can receive antiviral pills for free at local pharmacies and community health centers under a new program that launches this month.

“We’re launching the ‘Test to Treat’ initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost,” Biden said during his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

The administration will launch hundreds of sites nationwide at CVS, Walgreens and Kroger as well as community health centers this month, a White House official said. Biden said Americans can also order more free Covid tests at the government’s website, covidtests.gov, next week. Households are eligible for four free Covid tests per order. Families are limited to two orders starting next week based on residential address.

The president said Pfizer is working to deliver 1 million courses of its Covid treatment pill, Paxlovid, this month. Paxlovid was 89% effective at preventing hospitalization among people who were at risk of developing severe illness during clinical trials.

Biden said the U.S. has reached a new moment in the pandemic, with cases of severe illness down to their lowest level since July. The omicron Covid variant upended the country in December and January, causing an unprecedented wave of infection that pushed many hospitals to the brink.

The president said most Americans are now safe to go about their lives mask free under new guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. Biden said more of the country will also meet CDC guidelines to go mask free in the next two weeks.

 “With 75% of adult Americans fully vaccinated and hospitalizations down by 77%, most Americans can remove their masks, return to work, stay in the classroom, and move forward safely,” the president said.  

Biden said the U.S. is prepared for new Covid variants, with the ability to deploy new vaccines within 100 days if needed.

“I cannot promise a new variant won’t come. But I can promise you we’ll do everything within our power to be ready if it does,” he said.   

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