Free Anti-COVID Pills Offered In LA

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A woman waits at the pharmacy counter at a CVS on Sunset Boulevard in the Echo Park neighborhood of Los Angeles, Jan. 4, 2021. (Stefanie Dazio/AP Photo)

LOS ANGELES, CA — Los Angeles County began offering free medication this week to treat people newly infected with COVID-19.

The new pills come as a part of President Joe Biden's "test to treat" COVID-19 program.

Residents must get tested and show their test results at select pharmacies in the county to get the free medication.

The medication can be found at 20 participating CVS pharmacies across Los Angeles County.

Find a pharmacy near you.

"Given that the new therapeutics can save the lives of residents who are at elevated risk, Public Health is working closely with partners across the county to make sure they are accessible to those who are most vulnerable to severe illness from a COVID infection," Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.

The two antiviral pills offered under the program are Pfizer's Paxlovid, and Molnupiravir, by Merck & Co. Paxlovid is meant for people ages 12 and up, while Molnupravir is meant for adults age 18 and older and is not recommended for those who are pregnant.

The medications reduce the ability of the virus to multiply and spread throughout a person's body and they are typically used to treat high-risk people with mild-to-moderate COVID cases, according to the county's public health department.

Officials recommend starting the medication within five days of feeling symptoms. Federal guidelines say that the two medications cannot be given to those who become severely ill or are being treated with supplemental oxygen.

Evulsheld, an injectable medicine, is also being offered for people 12 and over who have not been exposed to the virus and are unable to get a COVID vaccine for medical reasons.

"Having sites where residents can both get tested and receive appropriate medications if they are positive is essential and we look forward to working with federal and pharmacy partners to expand the availability of 'Test to Treat' programs, especially in our under-resourced communities," Ferrer said.

As the omicron-fueled winter surge continued to fade further into the rearview mirror, hospitalizations were falling more each day in the county.

The number of hospitalized patients declined from 588 to 565 — down from a staggering 4,800 in January, according to the latest state numbers out Saturday.

Of those patients, 107 were in intensive care, one fewer than Friday's total.

The county reported 1,029 new cases of COVID-19 and 52 additional deaths related to the coronavirus Saturday, bringing its cumulative totals to 2,811,864 cases and 31,275 fatalities.

The rolling seven-day average daily rate of people testing positive for the virus was 0.7 percent as of Saturday, according to the county.

The decline in cases prompted state and local officials to ease indoor mask requirements, and have led the Los Angeles City Council to take steps toward lifting its vaccine mandate for entering many indoor establishments

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