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As the number of COVID-19 cases in the US increases, so does the demand for antivirals

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WASHINGTON — Rising COVID-19 cases are fueling the use of therapeutics, with Paxlovid, Pfizer Inc’s oral antiviral treatment, posting a 315% surge over the past four weeks, U.S. health officials said Tuesday.

The rise in cases and hospitalizations in the US is beginning to affect behavioral recommendations, with New York City, the country’s most populous city, advising stricter mask use but not introducing new mandates. Apple has scrapped plans to return to the office.

“Increasingly, we will see this virus hitting people who are significantly older, more frail, have underlying medical conditions, or are significantly immunocompromised,” said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.

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“But we now have better treatments and many of these people will exit the hospital vertically rather than horizontally.”

The United States is averaging nearly 97,000 new cases per day, up from about 73,000 a week ago, according to a Reuters tally https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA-TRENDS/dgkvlgkrkpb. Cases have been rising gradually since hitting a recent low of 30,000 new infections a day in late March.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday estimated that about half of the infections over the past week came from the BA.2.12.1 sublineage of the Omicron variant, which has been on the rise since mid-April and is already at by far the dominant tribe is the east coast.

“The other thing that’s going on is that we’re providing the opportunity for distribution; We’ve taken off our masks, we’re going back to group activities both business and leisure,” Schaffner said.

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“Going forward, we need to find out when the impact of this virus will be enough to potentially put our masks back on and do more social distancing. That kind of discussion is happening in New York right now,” he added.

New York City on Tuesday raised its COVID-19 alert level to high, and its public health department is advising strongly that masks be worn in all indoor public spaces for everyone and in crowded outdoor areas for those over 65 or at high risk.

NEW WAVE

As a percentage of population, the U.S. Northeast has seen the largest spike in new cases over the past seven days, led by Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

According to a Reuters tally, nearly 20,000 people are currently in hospital across the country, up from 16,500 last week. Hospital admissions have also been rising steadily from a recent low of 12,000 in mid-April.

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In terms of population, the states with the most hospital admissions are Maine, New York and Delaware.

Deaths, a lagging indicator, have remained fairly stable at between 300 and 500 on a daily average. COVID-19 has killed more than a million US citizens since the pandemic began.

Nearly 115,000 Paxlovid cycles were issued in the first week of May, the Department of Health and Human Services said on Tuesday.

A total of 668,954 courses were conducted out of the 3.3 million available supply, HHS data shows.

Paxlovid is approved to prevent high-risk people with COVID-19 from becoming seriously ill. It is meant to be taken for five days, beginning shortly after the onset of symptoms.

Vendors issued 230,257 courses of molnupiravir, Merck & Co’s competing oral antiviral drug co-developed with Ridgeback Biotherapeutics. About 3.2 million courses of molnupiravir are available, HHS data shows.

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VACCINES, TESTS AND TREATMENTS

The White House said last month it aims to meet lower-than-expected demand by expanding access to treatments like Paxlovid by doubling the number of sites where they are available.

“In the last few weeks we have gone from 20,000 sites with Paxlovid to about 35,000 and will continue to work to increase availability,” the senior health official said, adding that 88% of the population is within 5 miles (8 km) of a lived side? site.

Health officials face the challenge of convincing the public that revaccination is beneficial, Schaffner said.

“We need to keep vaccinating because it seems that protection against serious diseases wanes to some degree over a period of months,” he said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday approved the use of a booster shot of Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine in children ages 5 to 11, making everyone age 5 and older eligible for a third shot.

The government has shipped around 360 million coronavirus tests to homes across the country, the official said, and opened a third round of orders on its website COVIDtest.gov on Monday to accommodate additional requests.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Additional reporting by Michael Erman in New York; Editing by Bill Berkrot and Lisa Shumaker)

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