One more person has died in Newfoundland and Labrador of COVID-19 since Friday, as the province introduces new regulations to prevent serious illness in older and immunocompromised people.
The new death — a person in their 80s or older in the Western Health region — raises the total of fatalities due to the virus to 177. Th
Fourteen people are in hospital, including two in critical care, according to a government update on Wednesday. Eight of the hospitalizations are in the Eastern Health region, five are in Western Health and one is in Labrador-Grenfell.
The province is also reporting 264 new cases of COVID-19 in the last five days, but that number is not necessarily a true representation of the virus's spread, since the Department of Health has restricted testing and is no longer releasing data on how many people are getting tested.
Paxlovid access expanded
The antiviral medication Paxlovid is also now available for anyone over the age of 80, regardless of vaccination status. It's also available for people who are immunocompromised and those over 60 in remote or Indigenous communities and long-term care homes.
The province had previously restricted prescriptions to unvaccinated seniors only.
Janice Audeau, president of the Pharmacists' Association of N.L., says a growing supply of the drug has increased accessibility — and recent regulation changes mean pharmacies can now prescribe and dispense the medication, skipping the need for a doctor's appointment.
"Paxlovid doesn't stop or cure COVID, but it does stop the virus from replicating, which reduces your chances of hospitalization or death, so it makes the severity much lower," Audeau said Wednesday.
"If you start early enough, there's a chance it keeps you out of hospital and keeps you alive. So the more accessible it is, hopefully the less COVID deaths we'll be seeing."
Audeau says the drug must be started within five days of symptoms developing, and patients must provide a rapid positive test.