LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Heading into fall, it's time to start thinking about COVID spikes as we enter the cool season— but now you can get a medicine that stops the virus altogether.
Dr. Naveen Patil with the Arkansas Department of Health said that expanded accessibility to COVID medications has been a game changer.
"We have a wide array of therapeutics that are available now compared to what we did two years ago... I'm hoping all these medications will prevent people from getting really sick, getting into the hospital, and dying from COVID," Patil said.
Last week, President Biden made an announcement and stated, "The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with COVID. We're still doing a lot of work on it. It's-- but the pandemic is over".
However, infectious disease doctors like Robert Hopkins at UAMS disagree with this statement.
"I think that's politics speak. You know, the pandemic is still with us. You know, we're still seeing hundreds of people die every day in this country from COVID-19," Hopkins said.
Nearly 300 COVID patients are hospitalized right now, and while most of them will survive, the virus has still caused a strain.
"We tend to see a lot more flu illnesses in the wintertime, we have seen over the last three years more COVID illnesses in the wintertime. And so I'm concerned that that may impact our health systems," Hopkins added.
Pharmacies like Kavanaugh Pharmacy in Little Rock are treating COVID cases now by offering, and in some cases prescribing, antivirals like Paxlovid to help fight the virus.
"It's most likely safe for someone for [Paxlovid's] five-day course of therapy. We know these drugs, we've seen them, and so most people are not going to have any severe complications," said Anne Pace, owner and pharmacist at Kavanaugh.
And while there might be some side effects, commonly a metallic taste in your mouth, it can stop the virus.
"If someone's interested and wants to do it, and I would certainly recommend to anybody, if they test positive, to talk to their doctor or talk to their pharmacist to see if that's something that they should think about," Pace added.
Alongside treatments, Kavanaugh Pharmacy will continue to offer initial and booster vaccinations to get ahead of the virus, and in the last few weeks, updated booster shots with added protection against COVID variants.
"This is our, you know, fifth shot for some people. And so it isn't a major change in how those vaccines are made...It's just a little bit updated to the virus because the virus has mutated," Pace explained.
All the while, experts want to remind us to get back to basics— like hand washing, masking, and just being kind.
"I hate to see people getting flustered or looked at ugly for wearing masks. I wear my mask when I'm out and around people. Let's respect each other as fellow Arkansans and try to take care of each other through this pandemic," Hopkins said.