New COVID Hotline Launches in NYS as Elusive Subvariant Fuels US Case Surge

The BA.5 subvariant appears to escape immunity and transmit more easily, leading some to call it the "worst version" of omicron yet -- and a recent study on severe outcome risk from reinfection raises fresh alarm bells

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What to Know

  • COVID cases are surging across America once again, fueled in large part by the highly contagious and more vaccine-resistant omicron subvariants
  • All five NYC counties were added back to the CDC's high-risk category for COVID spread on Friday, Westchester County was also added to the list
  • What's behind the spread? Experts believe it is being driven by omicron subvariants BA.5 and BA.4, which are said to be 4.2 times more vaccine-evasive than their predecessor and are also more transmissible

New York state on Monday announced a new COVID hotline to serve those who test positive for the virus but don't have a healthcare provider, Gov. Kathy Hochul announced.

The hotline, 1-888-TREAT-NY, uses NYC Health + Hospitals Virtual ExpressCare platform and aims to help reduce barriers to treatment for underserved communities.

All New Yorkers outside of New York City city, regardless of income or health insurance coverage who test COVID-19 positive, are eligible to be evaluated for treatment by calling that hotline or completing an evaluation at the NYS COVID-19 ExpressCare Therapeutics Access website, which includes a telemedicine visit.

New York City residents should call 212-COVID-19. It's the same hotline, which is available 24/7 and run by clinically trained H+H professionals. Providers with H+H also offer virtual care via the ExpressCare platform.

If you opt for a telemedicine visit, expect a clinical assessment by medical providers who will identify the appropriate COVID-19 treatment plan. That may include oral antivirals like Paxlovid or Molnupiravir, which have proven to decrease hospitalization for those who are at risk for severe disease from COVID. Those medications can help fight infection and shorten recovery time if taken early.

As all treatments require a prescription, those who test COVID-19 positive should talk to their provider or call 888-TREAT-NY to determine what treatment is best for them, Hochul said. New York state is allocated a weekly allotment of both Paxlovid and Molnupiravir from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.

"Every New Yorker should have access to the latest COVID-19 therapeutics regardless of whether they have a regular health care provider," New York State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett said in a statement. "Thanks to the Department's agreement with NYC Health + Hospitals, our new COVID-19 treatment hotline at 888-TREAT-NY is another tool to reduce the barriers to treatment and will help ensure traditionally underserved communities have access to the same care as other New Yorkers."

Access to treatment -- and testing -- is once again critically important as New York and the rest of America battle a sixth pandemic wave fueled by what some are calling the "worst version" of omicron yet. All five boroughs are back in the CDC's high-risk category for community COVID spread as of the agency's latest update, while city health officials are reminding people it's smart to wear masks indoors.

Copyright NBC New York
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