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COVID-19 | WISCONSIN

Drugs to prevent COVID-19 complications plentiful in Wisconsin, officials say

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As COVID-19 hospitalizations inch up again in Wisconsin and virus levels rise in Madison wastewater, health officials are urging people at high risk for severe complications from coronavirus infections to take antiviral drugs that were initially scarce but are now plentiful.

“These are available throughout the state,” Dr. Jon Meiman, a chief medical officer with the state Department of Health Services, said Tuesday of the drugs Paxlovid and Lagevrio, noting Paxlovid has been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths by up to 88%. “There’s a lot of potential benefit there.”

Supply of the oral antivirals, authorized in December to treat COVID-19 patients, initially was low. But with a recent boost, the state has now received 12,740 patient courses of Paxlovid and 2,888 courses of Lagevrio. However, as of Friday, only 23% of Paxlovid and 6% of Lagevrio courses had been dispensed to patients.

Patients at high risk for complications — such as those who are older or have compromised immune systems — should get tested for COVID-19 promptly if they develop symptoms, Meiman said. If they test positive, he said, they should talk with their doctors about whether to take the antivirals, which must be started within five days after symptoms begin.

Nearly 350 pharmacies in the state have one or both drugs. Sixteen pharmacies with adjoining clinics are involved in a related federal test-to-treat program.

As of Tuesday, 242 patients were hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, down from 245 on Monday but up from 202 a week earlier and a recent low of 136 on April 19. Dane County had 24 COVID-19 hospitalizations, down from 33 a week earlier.

The Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District had a “major increase” in coronavirus levels from April 24 to April 28, a departure from most recent reports in which the district had steady virus levels. As fewer people get tested for COVID-19 and more turn to home testing, for which results typically are not included in reported cases, health officials nationwide are increasingly looking at wastewater to gauge coronavirus trends.

Dane County has had a recent uptick in reported cases of COVID-19, joining four other counties in having medium COVID-19 community levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Barron and Rusk counties have high levels and the rest of the state is considered low.

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