The Illinois Department of Public Health said Thursday it expects to receive two new COVID-19 oral antiviral treatments in the coming weeks for patients with mild to moderate disease.
Paxlovid and molnupiravir will be available by prescription only, and the agency said it is currently working with pharmacies around the state to offer them to patients.
“While vaccination, including boosters, is still the best way to avoid infection and prevent severe illness from COVID-19, these new antivirals given emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration can help treat those who get infected and have a higher risk of becoming severely ill,” said IDPH Director Dr. Ngozi Ezike.
The agency did not say how many of each antiviral it expects to receive in its initial shipment. Illinois will receive a renewed allocation of antivirals every two weeks.
The Food and Drug Administration has issued emergency use authorizations for the two antiviral pills to be taken at home within five days of when symptoms begin. Paxlovid is for those over 12, and molnupiravir is for those over 18. IDPH said paxlovid is expected to reduce the risk of hospitalizations by 89 percent and molnupiravir by about 30 percent.
The announcement comes as Illinois’ post-holiday COVID-19 surge continued Thursday, with IDPH reporting pandemic highs in hospitalizations and COVID-19 cases.
As of Wednesday, 7,098 Illinoisans were in the hospital with COVID-19, up 256 from Tuesday and up 1,409 from the prior week.
Of the patients in the hospital, 1,119 were in intensive care units, down 16 from Tuesday and up 109 from the prior week. There were 646 patients on ventilators, down 17 from Tuesday and up 81 from the prior week.
Those numbers include a rise in pediatric hospitalizations. There has been a three-fold increase at Advocate Children’s Hospital in Oak Lawn over the last month, with about 25 to 38 patients per day, Dr. Frank Belmonte, chief medical officer, said during a Thursday virtual event hosted by the health system.
Ninety-four percent are unvaccinated, with many coming from households where no one has received the vaccine.
“We’re really encouraging parents to vaccinate their child if they’re eligible,” Belmonte told reporters.
About half are younger than 5, the age at which children become eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine. A quarter of pediatric patients hospitalized are in the intensive care unit.
Meanwhile, seven out of 10 school-aged children are testing positive in outpatient offices, up from one to two out of 10 previously.
There were 44,089 new COVID-19 cases reported in Illinois on Thursday, shattering the previous single-day high of 32,279 cases set on Wednesday.
The total COVID-19 case count is 2,339,534. The death toll is 28,260 after 104 deaths were reported Thursday. It’s the first time deaths have hit triple-digits since 102 were reported on Feb. 11, 2021
The seven-day average for new cases is 27,141, up 8,820 from a week ago. The seven-day average for daily deaths is 63, up eight from the prior week.
The seven-day statewide positivity rate for cases as a percent of total tests is 14.7 percent. The seven-day statewide test positivity using the number of COVID-19 positive tests over total tests is 18.6 percent.
About 77.3 percent of eligible Illinoisans ages 5 and older have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, while 68.6 percent are fully vaccinated.
Illinois vaccinators have administered 19,475,871 COVID-19 vaccines, including 3,275,652 booster doses. The seven-day average of doses administered is 43,690.