DIY COVID is here

Free COVID-19 self-test kits are available on the USPS website. Photo by Mark Stewart

Four months ago, Ela, 79, and her husband, Jake, 83, tested positive for COVID-19. A tough Polish lady who doesn’t like going to doctors, she waited. But when she passed out in the living room, her family was alarmed. Her daughter scrambled to find a clinic that was an hour away but could give them the monoclonal antibody infusion that day.

Jake got the infusion. But Ela was told, “Your oxygen is too low. It’s too late for the infusion treatment.” She was admitted to the hospital.

Hopefully soon, a new drug Paxlovid and a new Test and Treat Initiative will change this outcome. Paxlovid isn’t widely available yet, but it’s among the most effective of the four or five drugs that target early COVID-19 infections.

Trial data showed Paxlovid could reduce COVID-related hospitalization by 90% in people like Ela, who’s not vaccinated. Or Jake, who’s vaccinated but high risk because of his age and a history of stroke that left him blind in one eye.

Today, we have an armory of treatments to combat COVID-19. Some came and went overnight because of emerging resistance from mutants like Omicron. Some, like steroids, only work for hospitalized patients; all need a prescription.

Paxlovid could be a gamechanger. It’s pills (no infusion), it’s free (courtesy of Uncle Sam), and it’s effective. It seems to work for the Omicron variant. The biggest problem: It cross-reacts with many commonly used drugs.

Because Paxlovid works by stopping the virus from multiplying, the earlier you take it, the better (within 5 days of symptom onset). Time is of the essence.

What’s more: It’s the way it might be administered – a one-stop Test and Treat – that I’m most excited about.

To streamline drug access, the Test and Treat Initiative under Presient Biden’s National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan could allow you to get tested and treated in one location like a nearby pharmacy or clinic.

Or you can use the result from the free at-home COVID-19 tests. I just ordered 2 sets (4 tests included) using the USPS website. It took one minute to order, and the package was on my doorstep in two days.  

Jake felt better shortly after the infusion. Ela was hospitalized for two weeks. Today, she has mild fatigue and a persistent right ear hearing loss. But she’s energetic, grateful, and back being “Jake’s eye,” as she likes to call herself.

I hope, in the near future, with better drugs and access, I could rewrite this story to read:

Ela, 79, a tough Polish lady who’s never been sick in her life, felt congested and couldn’t hear out of her right ear. She’s unvaccinated, and her husband, Jake, is vaccinated. At the first sign of symptoms, they test themselves using the free at-home COVID-19 tests they ordered weeks ago.

They present their positive tests to a local pharmacy (clinic). A qualified prescriber evaluates them for and counsels them about the appropriate treatment. They’re given Paxlovid – for free, right there and then. They feel like crap, but the worse part: Jake, who gets better sooner, has to do the cleaning and cooking, and Ela, who takes longer, has to hear about his cleaning and cooking.

Both recover uneventfully at home.

The end.

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Volume 14, Issue 6, Posted 10:39 AM, 03.15.2022