The COVID-19 pandemic, experts say, has entered a new phase: We must learn to live with it, while also doing everything we can to delay getting it. The super-contagious Omicron variant has pushed new daily case numbers to previously unthinkable levels—1.3 million, at last count. At the same time, Omicron seems to cause less severe disease: A new CDC study found that Omicron is 91% less likely to result in death than the Delta variant. But Omicron’s prevalence makes it more likely that additional variants will develop and spread globally. What happens then is impossible to predict.
Some good news: In the coming weeks and months, new COVID treatments will be readily available, including a number of antiviral drugs. During this week’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, Dr. Anthony Fauci walked through the upcoming medications that are intended to make COVID—at least as we know it right now—a less severe, more manageable illness. Read on to find out more—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
The CDC says “if you were exposed, quarantine and stay away from others when you have been in close contact with someone who has COVID-19. If you are sick or test positive, isolate when you are sick or when you have COVID-19, even if you don’t have symptoms.” Then talk to your doctor and monitor your symptoms. Your doctor may recommend one of the following medications, depending on your case. “What we really want to do, among several other things, is to prevent people from progressing to serious disease,” said Fauci. “And you do that by treating people as outpatients, thereby reducing the visit to urgent care settings, to hospitalizations, and ultimately deaths.”
In doing so, “You reduce the duration of illness. You reduce, to some extent, infectivity and transmission,” he said. “And importantly, particularly as we are dealing with this extraordinary situation with Omicron, you minimize the stress on the healthcare system.”
Read on to see what Fauci said about COVID medications that are coming.
This antiviral drug produced by Pfizer—a five-day course of oral medication taken soon after symptoms appear—received an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the Food&Drug Administration late last year. Clinical trials found it caused an 89% reduction in COVID hospitalizations and deaths, said Fauci.
This monoclonal antibody treatment—which is given intravenously—has been found to be effective against the Omicron variant, which has rendered several other monoclonals unhelpful. Studies have found it causes an 85% reduction in risk of severe COVID or death, Fauci said.
An antiviral drug produced by Merck, molnupiravir works by introducing errors into the COVID virus’s genetic code, preventing it from replicating. It has been found to reduce the risk of hospitalization or death by 30%, Fauci said.
Production on these medications is currently being ramped up. For a time, they will be in short to scarce supply. So, who should get priority access to limited resources? “The highest priority, as always, should be given to patients with the highest risk of progression” of illness, said Fauci. In order, they are:
Immunocompromised people who are unvaccinated and at high risk, meaning anyone older than 75, or anyone older than 65 who has a clinical risk factor
Unvaccinated people at increased risk, meaning anyone older than 65 or younger than 65 with a clinical risk factor
Vaccinated people at high risk
Vaccinated people at increased risk
Your best bet: Get fully vaccinated and receive a booster dose ASAP. If you develop COVID symptoms, call your doctor for advice. They’ll prescribe treatment based on your individual risk factors, the medications that are available, and the latest information on their effectiveness.
Follow the fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.