“COVID-19 need no longer control our lives,” President Biden said, detailing a plan to immediately provide free antiviral pills to anyone who tests positive.
In his State of the Union address last night, President Joe Biden unveiled a new “test to treat” COVID-19 plan. Biden expressed that he hopes this plan will help the country regain some semblance of normalcy.
“Thanks to the progress we have made this past year,” Biden said, “COVID-19 need no longer control our lives.”
Biden acknowledged that, after overcoming the Omicron case spike, new COVID-19 infections are down to the lowest they have been since last July. As a result, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced updated guidelines earlier this week, saying masks are only needed for people living in a county considered “high risk.”
Biden outlined 4 steps for the next phase of the pandemic: vaccines and treatments for Americans, sending vaccines to other countries, reopening schools and businesses, and preparing for new variants.
As part of the COVID-19 treatment strategy, Biden announced the “Test to Treat” initiative.
With this strategy, Biden said, “people can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.” Biden also said the immunocompromised and other persons at high risk of severe COVID-19 disease will receive treatments and free high-quality masks.
“We’re leaving no one behind or ignoring anyone’s needs as we move forward,” the President said.
The antiviral pills, manufactured by Pfizer, have been in relatively short supply since they received US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval at the end of 2021. Biden promised, “Pfizer is working overtime to get us 1 million pills this month and more than double that next month,” adding that the Pfizer pill reduces the risk of COVID-19-induced hospitalization by 90%.
The “test to treat” strategy was set to go into effect today, Wednesday, March 2. However, some have pointed out that many pharmacies do not have the antiviral pills at this point, and are currently unable to prescribe and distribute the treatment.
Still, the Biden administration is promising to rollout the “one-stop shops” this month, so Americans will no longer have to wait an unspecified time after testing positive to receive the COVID-19 antiviral treatment.
Notably, Biden said that Americans will be able to order more free tests as early as next week, in addition to the previously available 4 tests per household.
“Last year COVID-19 kept us apart,” Biden said. “This year we are finally together again.”