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‘COVID is not done with us’ | The antiviral drug that can help if you get COVID-19

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases in California, ABC10 asked doctors about the latest developments in how people can stay safe.

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — After testing positive for COVID-19 Saturday morning, Gov. Gavin Newsom was prescribed Paxlovid, his office said.

RELATED: Gov. Gavin Newsom tests positive for COVID-19

ABC10 medical expert Dr. Payal Kohli said Pfizer’s antiviral drug Paxlovid, which has emergency use authorization from the FDA for people 12 and up, can be taken once someone tests positive for COVID-19.

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases nationwide – including in much of California – Dr. Kohli said, “the good news is that we have new tools in our toolbox like antivirals and even some antibodies that we can give to people who become infected."

“Paxlovid is great drug, and it's a huge breakthrough,” Dr. David Herbert, a specialist in infectious diseases with Sutter Independent Physicians, said. “Right now, the recommendation is that anybody who is at risk for possibly developing a more serious case of COVID while they have only a mild case should take it, and needs to be started right away.”

He said people who test positive should talk to their doctor, as Paxlovid requires a prescription.

"I think most of us feel like we're just done with COVID, but COVID is not done with us,” Dr. Herbert said. “Anybody who is at least 50 years old or who has an immunosuppressive condition really should be getting that second booster shot right now.”

That’s because it takes two weeks for a booster shot to become maximally effective, Dr. Herbert said, and California is experiencing a surge of COVID-19 cases right now. That’s even with an under-reporting of cases, doctors say since more people are testing positive with at-home kits.

CDC numbers released Thursday show a “medium” level community spread in several counties throughout the Sacramento area. 

The Sacramento City Unified School District said the rate of spread in the county is now eight times greater than it was when the district lifted its masking requirement in schools last month. Because of that, they’re now strongly advising everyone to wear a face mask in school buildings.

RELATED: Sacramento schools could bring back masking for students amid increasing COVID numbers

Dr. Herbert and Dr. Kohli agree that wearing a mask provides good protection against this current surge.

“Many people, I think, are making the calculation that, ‘well, if I get it, I’m probably not going to die, and maybe just like a really bad influenza. And I can deal with that,’” Dr. Herbert said. “Unfortunately, they may also give it to somebody else who might not have such a pleasant experience.”

“Up to one out of three people are reporting symptoms of long COVID, even with a mild infection initially,” Dr. Kohli said. “So realize that this is not necessarily just a cold.”

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