Minnesota among first states to get federally backed COVID 'test-to-treat' sites

A sign reads "reads COVID-19 testing site appointments"
Signs behind the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center alert people to the presence of a free COVID-19 testing site September in Duluth. Opening to the public Wednesday, the Duluth site will be Minnesota’s first COVID-19 saliva testing location. The state plans to open as many as nine more sites across the state like the one in Duluth. The Duluth pilot site will help gauge demand at sites like this to help with setup at the other testing sites.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News | 2020

Three of Minnesota's state-run COVID-19 testing sites will soon become spots for COVID treatment, too, making them some of the first to come out of the federal government’s push to create “test-to-treat” sites.

Testing sites in Brooklyn Park, Duluth and Moorhead will offer people who test positive for COVID-19 a prescription for Paxlovid, an antiviral medication that subdues the worst of the infection.

The community testing site in Brooklyn Park will become a test-to-treat location on June 10, while the sites in Moorhead and in Duluth will start offering Paxlovid on June 13 and 14 respectively.

The move comes less than two weeks after the White House announced more efforts to make Paxlovid more accessible, opening the nation’s first federally backed test-to-treat in Rhode Island.

“I am proud to be one of the first states to partner with the federal government to offer more test-to-treat options to people who need them,” Governor Tim Walz said in a statement Wednesday.

There are thousands more such sites run by states across the country without federal support.

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While Paxlovid has proven to be effective in preventing death or hospitalization from COVID-19 in high-risk patients, uptake of the drug has been slow across the country since its approval in December. Some patients have had a difficult time accessing it.

Experts say making the drug available onsite immediately after a positive test result will make it easier for people to access the drug.

When administered within five days of symptoms appearing, the drug has been proven to bring about a 90 percent reduction in hospitalizations and deaths among patients most likely to get severe disease, according to the Associated Press.

Like COVID-19 vaccines, Paxlovid is free for those who need it.