As cases and hospitalizations remain high, Wisconsin health officials say new COVID-19 pills will go to most vulnerable first

·3 min read
Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral pills are manufactured inside a laboratory in Freiburg, Germany. The pharmaceutical giant asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November for emergency use authorization for its Paxlovid pill, which studies have shown to cut hospitalization or death among newly infected high-risk patients.
Pfizer's COVID-19 antiviral pills are manufactured inside a laboratory in Freiburg, Germany. The pharmaceutical giant asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in November for emergency use authorization for its Paxlovid pill, which studies have shown to cut hospitalization or death among newly infected high-risk patients.

Two days before Christmas, Wisconsin continued to see high numbers of new COVID-19 cases and state health officials said distribution of two newly authorized pills would go toward the most vulnerable first.

Following the Food and Drug Administration's emergency authorization this week of oral antiviral medications from Pfizer and Merck to treat patients with mild to moderate COVID-19, health officials said the state Department of Health Services is preparing to receive allocations from the federal government "within the coming weeks."

"At this time, we know that the initial supplies will be limited and we ask for everyone’s patience. Distribution will focus on the most vulnerable and hard-hit communities," DHS deputy secretary Deb Standridge said in a statement.

The medications, Paxlovid and Molnupiravir, "are not intended as a substitute for COVID-19 vaccination," the statement said.

"In clinical trials, these medications reduced hospitalization and death rates in people who tested positive for COVID-19, and who were at high risk of severe COVID-19 illness," DHS said.

More: FDA OKs second antiviral with Merck pill: COVID updates

The state on Thursday reported more than 5,200 new cases and 46 deaths from the virus.

The seven-day average for new daily cases has remained above 3,000 since the start of December. On Thursday it was about 3,500. Case numbers have been climbing since the summer but have reached especially high levels in recent weeks. Two months ago, the state was reporting about 1,800 new cases each day.

Meanwhile, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state remains high. The number, 1,600, is down slightly from last week when it topped 1,700, but it is still part of a steep, two-month-long surge in hospitalizations.

Track COVID and the vaccine in Wisconsin: See the latest data on cases, deaths and administered doses

Wisconsin vaccine FAQ: Who's eligible, where to get it and what's next

Latest COVID-19 numbers

  • New cases reported: 5,205

  • New deaths reported: 46

  • Number hospitalized: 1,600 (intensive care: 406); up 350 patients from a month ago

  • Seven-day average of daily cases: 3,511 (up 339 cases from one month ago)

  • Seven-day average of daily deaths: 27 (up 11 deaths from one month ago)

  • Seven-day average positivity rate — as a share of all tests given: 12.7%

  • Total cases since the start of pandemic: 957,751

  • Total deaths: 9,862

Latest vaccine numbers

  • Total doses administered: 8,464,740

  • Daily doses administered: 21,026

  • Seven-day average of daily doses: 24,392

  • Total booster doses administered: 1,505,360

  • Daily booster doses administered: 14,932

  • Seven-day average of daily booster doses: 18,165

  • Residents who have received one dose: 3,596,062 (61.7% of the population)

  • Residents who are fully vaccinated: 3,379,584 (57.9% of the population)

  • Residents ages 5 to 11 with at least one dose: 96,517 (19.8% of age group)

  • Residents ages 12 to 17 with at least one dose: 251,081 (56.5% of age group)

  • Residents ages 18 to 24 with at least one dose: 306,213 (56.2% of age group)

  • Residents ages 25 to 34 with at least one dose: 450,744 (60.8% of age group)

  • Residents ages 35 to 44 with at least one dose: 482,110 (66.8% of age group)

  • Residents ages 45 to 54 with at least one dose: 486,729 (69.6% of age group)

  • Residents ages 55 to 64 with at least one dose: 628,345 (76.6% of age group)

  • Residents 65 and older with at least one dose: 894,279 (85.3% of age group)

Variant cases of concern

The state Department of Health Services, the Wisconsin State Laboratory of Hygiene and other laboratory partners regularly perform whole genome sequencing on a portion of positive tests. The numbers below do not represent the total number of variant cases.

  • Cases of the delta (B.1.617.2) variant: 22,486

  • Cases of the omicron (B.1.1.529) variant: 187

This article originally appeared on Milwaukee Journal Sentinel: Wisconsin health leaders say new COVID-19 pills expected in state soon

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