The advent of medications to help treat COVID-19 have been one of the keys officials have cited to allow the United States to return to normalcy amid the ongoing pandemic, but getting them into the hands of Americans has remained difficult even with the White House promising more access to the drugs.
Earlier this month, the White House announced a new program that would help get these anti-viral treatments to those individuals who needed them most.
“President Joe Biden has launched a test-and-treat initiative,” Jeff Zients, the White House’s COVID Response Coordinator, said earlier this month. “It will allow people to go to their local pharmacy, take a test, and if the test is positive for COVID, they’ll get immediate access to lifesaving pills.”
When Monica Eng tested positive for the virus on Friday, her mother reminded her about the “test-to-treat” program, so she began calling area pharmacies.
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“I called about 10 of the places that were supposed to have it in Chicago, and none of them told me they had the program up and running,” Eng, a reporter with Axios Chicago, said.
Eng writes a newsletter for the publication, and documented her struggles in the latest edition.
“I called the Walgreens headquarters, and the spokesperson for CVS, and they couldn’t really answer why I was having such a tough problem,” she said.
NBC 5 then called six different Chicago pharmacies, and only one offered testing, prescriptions and COVID pills all under one roof. Others who had the medication for COVID wouldn’t allow reporter Alex Maragos the ability to make a testing appointment at the same pharmacy.
The Chicago Department of Public Health changed its website on Wednesday, deleting a search tool it says was provided by pharmacies.
“When people are sick, they need something convenient,” Eng said. “They need a convenient way to test and be treated and this was not easy.”
Eng never received the medications she was looking for, but says she is feeling better.
Experts recommend that if residents get sick with COVID, especially if they’re at high-risk of complications, to call their local pharmacy ahead of time to see if they offer “test-to-treat” options, with more locations expected to come online in coming weeks.