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State, federal officials tout Baltimore’s ‘test-to-treat’ site for COVID-19

Officials from the White House toured a testing and treatment site in Baltimore Friday morning as the state continues to see unusually high positivity rates of COVID-19.

The tent-like structure was erected in a parking lot near state office buildings during the pandemic and looks like a white-colored field house from the outside. Inside, health care professionals from the University of Maryland Medical System, Johns Hopkins Medicine, and the Maryland Department of Health are working together to treat COVID patients.

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“We are here to say thank you,” said Dr. Matthew Hepburn, a senior adviser to the director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy for pandemic preparedness. “Getting a chance to be with the professionals who are on the ground every day, treating patients, taking care of people, it’s really inspiring, and the most important message of today is we have to continue to thank the heroes of this pandemic.”

The site is part of a nationwide push by the White House to have “test-to-treat” sites, where people who test positive for COVID-19 can get access to prescriptions and treatment immediately.

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“We want to use our infrastructure to be ready for whatever surge comes next,” Maryland Secretary of Health Dennis Schrader said. “But we want to build it into the infrastructure of the state using sites like this, using urgent care and ambulatory sites around the state.”

The rate of Marylanders testing positive for COVID is at the highest level since the Omicron wave in January. As of Friday, the testing positivity rate was at about 8%, though the number of people currently hospitalized for COVID remains lower than in previous waves, according to state data.

“Remember, this is unpredictable and it’s hard to know what the future is going to hold,” Hepburn said. “What we’ve seen today from this Maryland team is that they are prepared. They’re prepared to respond to whatever the pandemic brings.”

The FDA approved Moderna and Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines for children between the ages of 6 months and 6 years on Friday morning. Schrader said Maryland has already ordered vaccines for children.

“They’ll come in two waves next week,” Schrader said. “ … We’ve been talking to the local health departments and providers in the community. So we’re very anxious to get those vaccines here next week.

Schrader said he saw data last week that nearly half of the Marylander who tested positive were able to get paxlovid, an antiviral drug used to treat COVID-19. Schrader called it a “game-changer.”

“We have a hockey stick graph,” he said of Marylanders getting access to paxlovid. “It’s on its way up.”


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