People who test positive for Covid can get free antiviral pills at pharmacies, Biden said.

Paxlovid, Pfizer’s coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pill, is manufactured in Ascoli, Italy in this undated handout photo obtained by Reuters on November 16, 2021.

Pfizer | Handout | via Reuters

President Joe Biden said Tuesday that Americans who test positive for Covid-19 can get free antiviral pills at local pharmacies and community health centers as part of a new program that launches this month.

“We’re launching a Testing for Treatment initiative so people can get tested at a pharmacy and if they’re positive get antiviral pills on the spot for free,” Biden said during his speech on Tuesday.

The administration will launch hundreds of sites across the country this month at CVS, Walgreens and Kroger, as well as community health centers, a White House official said. Biden said Americans can also order more free Covid tests from the government’s website., Next week. Households are eligible for four free Covid tests per order. Families are limited to two bookings starting next week, depending on where they live.

The president said Pfizer is working to deliver 1 million courses of its Covid treatment pill, Paxlovid, this month. Paxlovid was 89% effective in preventing hospitalization among people who were at risk of developing severe illness during clinical trials.

Biden said the US has reached a new moment in the pandemic, with cases of severe illness falling to their lowest level since July. The omicron variant of Covid upended the country in December and January, unleashing an unprecedented wave of infection that has left many hospitals on the brink of survival.

The president said most Americans can now safely lead their lives without masks, in line with new guidance released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week. Biden said that in the next two weeks, most of the country will also comply with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommendations to phase out masks.

“With 75% of American adults fully vaccinated and hospitalizations down 77%, most Americans can take off their masks, get back to work, stay in class, and move on safely,” the president said.

Biden said the US is ready for new variants of Covid and can roll out new vaccines within 100 days if needed.

“I cannot promise that a new variant will not appear. But I can promise you that we will do everything in our power to be ready if he shows up,” he said.

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