Tulare County receives game-changing COVID treatment in time for Super Bowl parties

FRESNO, Calif. (KSEE) – A highly effective new treatment for COVID-19 is now available in Central Valley County and it arrives just in time for Super Bowl Sunday and family gatherings.

Tulare County has received antiviral doses from Merck and Pfizer and while this new treatment may be a game-changer because of its effectiveness, health officials are concerned about Super Bowl rallies with full hospitals.

“Who are you rooting for in the Super Bowl?”

“The Bengals,” replied Madera resident Daniel Juarez. “Joe Brrrrr.”

Juarez, who is a 49ers fanatic, plans to reunite with friends and family this weekend as he roots for the Bengals in the Super Bowl.

“I planned to go but my team didn’t go so I’m staying here,” Juarez said.

COVID-related hospitalizations and COVID cases are down in the Valley for the first time since the Omicron surge. However, health experts are asking people to be careful if they go to parties this weekend, especially those who are not vaccinated.

“We still have a ways to go,” said Fresno County acting health officer Dr. Rais Vohra. “Our hospitals are happy to have more leeway, but they are still under great pressure.”

Kaweah Health CEO Gary Herbst said while there aren’t as many COVID patients as there were a month ago, the hospital is operating at about 105% capacity.

“We continue to be a busy hospital,” Herbst said.

Herbst said the hospital is now using new tools, including Merck and Pfizer antiviral pills to help relieve pressure on the healthcare system. Over the past two weeks, the hospital has received nearly 300 doses of Merck and nearly 100 doses of Pfizer. According to a Pfizer trial, the pill is about 90% effective in preventing death or hospitalization in high-risk patients.

“They’ve been shown to be very, very effective for critically ill or hospitalized patients,” Herbst said.

Although antiviral treatments are very effective, the supply is low, they must be prescribed by a doctor and must be taken within the first five days of becoming infected with COVID.

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