With federal support, Minnesota-run COVID testing sites to offer antiviral drug

Several Minnesota COVID-19 testing sites will soon be able to provide oral antiviral treatments.

Thursday morning, the White House announced a plan to make the antiviral pill Paxlovid — which studies have shown reduces the risk of hospitalization and death from COVID-19 by around 90% — more accessible to people.

Part of that plan includes sending federal clinical personnel to Minnesota and turning state-run testing sites into “test-to-treat” locations.

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The new sites will allow Minnesotans to be tested, assessed and given Paxlovid all in the same place, and will help the state expand the capacity and reach of the antiviral pill.

While the specific sites that will be transformed haven’t yet been announced, federal personnel are scheduled to start arriving in Minnesota in the coming days.

The Minnesota Department of Health says the test-to-treat sites should be operating “shortly” after federal support arrives, possibly as early as next week, although some details are still being worked out.

MDH added that the sites will still test all Minnesotans at no cost. Those who test positive for COVID-19 at the transformed sites will immediately be evaluated by an on-site clinician and given a prescription for a COVID antiviral, if necessary. The MDH added the antiviral will also be provided at no cost to patients.

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The White House also said officials will open the first federally supported test-to-treat site on Thursday in Rhode Island, with more set to open in Massachusetts and New York City in the coming weeks.

COVID-19 cases have surged across the U.S. in recent weeks but deaths and hospitalizations have remained mostly stable.

Gov. Tim Walz also sounded off on the test-to-treat initiative Thursday, tweeting the following:

“I talked to Dr. Jha at the white House about test to treat this week, and I’m proud Minnesota is emerging as a national leader in this cutting edge care. This partnership will help more Minnesotans access COVID treatment and get back to their lives.”