It’s going to get a lot easier to get treated for COVID-19, as soon as you know you have it.
In President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address late Tuesday, he announced the launching of the “Test to Treat” initiative, in which people “can get tested at a pharmacy, and if they’re positive, receive antiviral pills on the spot at no cost.”
The initiative helped lift shares of pharmacy operations in midday trading Wednesday, as CVS Health Corp.
rallied 2.7%, Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc.
climbed 1.5% and Rite Aid Corp.
hiked up 3.4%.
Biden also said that, following new face mask guidelines issued recently by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has reached a “new moment” in the fight against COVID-19, with Americans moving forward safely and back to more normal routines.
He said he’ll “never just accept living with COVID-19,” but he outlined four “common sense” steps the U.S. will take to move forward safely:
- Keep pushing for Americans to get vaccinated or treated quickly when needed. “We’ll never give up on vaccinating more Americans,” Biden said.
- Prepare for more new variants. “If necessary, we’ll be able to deploy new vaccines within 100 days instead of many more months or years,” Biden said.
- End the shutdown of schools and businesses. “It’s time for Americans to get back to work and fill our great downtowns again,” Biden said.
- Continue vaccinating the rest of the world.
These steps are part of the White House’s new “National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan” announced at a briefing Wednesday, with an aim to no longer let COVID-19 dictate how Americans live their lives.
The new plan calls for increasing vaccine manufacturing capacity to produce an additional 1 billion doses per year, and to develop a “single COVID vaccine” that protects against SARS-CoV-2 and all its variants.
The latest CDC data showed that 215.68 million Americans, or 65% of the population were fully vaccinated. That included 75% of the adult population, and 41% of the people at least 5 years old through 17 years old.
Biden’s “new moment” comes as the cases and hospitalizations keep falling sharply, while deaths hold steady below 2,000 per day.
The seven-day average of new COVID cases fell to 58,986 on Tuesday, according to a New York Times tracker, the lowest level since July 26. That’s down 58% from two weeks ago, and 93% below the Jan. 14 peak of 806,795.
New case reports are down at least 70% in the last two weeks in 12 U.S. states, including California, Indiana, Nevada and Wyoming, the NYT data show.
The daily average for hospitalizations fell 44% from two weeks ago to 47,560, the lowest level since Nov. 15, and less than one-third the Jan. 20 peak of 159,545. The average number of people in intensive care units (ICUs) slipped to 8,940, or 19% of the COVID-related hospitalizations, to the lowest number since late-July.
Meanwhile, the daily average for deaths ticked up to 1,908, but still marked a seventh-straight day that it was below 2,000. It was down 18% from two weeks ago, and 28% below the Feb. 1 peak of 2,653, but was still more than double the November low of 912.
More COVID news and numbers
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration named three at-home COVID-19 tests that people should not use, as they have not been authorized or approved the by regulator. The tests included the “Flowflex SARS-CoV-2 Antigen Rapid Test (Self-Testing)” from ACON Laboratories, the “Standard Q COVID-19 Ag Home Test” from SD Biosensor Inc. and the “DiaTrust COVID-19 Ag Rapid Tests” from Celltrion USA Inc.
The global tally for COVID-19 cases rose to 438.82 million as of midday Wednesday, while the death toll rose to 5,968,316, according to data aggregated by Johns Hopkins University. The U.S. leads the world with 79.10 million cases and 952,759 deaths.
–Jaimy Lee contributed to this report.