Health Tips: Is the COVID-19 Test-to-Treat program testing your patience?


The news is good, bad and downright stupid when it comes to the COVID-19 Test-to-Treat Program that was launched in March.

Good: antiviral medications. Pfizer’s Paxlovid and Merck’s Lagevrio, when taken within five days of developing your first COVID-19 symptoms, can prevent severe illness, hospitalizations and deaths, especially among chronically ill (diabetes, heart disease, etc.), disabled and older Americans.

Good:  All qualified heath care providers (that’s your doc) can prescribe these antivirals. And now, the Department of Health and Human Services is distributing oral antiviral pills directly to participating Test-to-Treat pharmacy-based clinics and long-term care pharmacies. You can get tested and prescribed antivirals all in one visit. An online national map shows locations that are offering the service:

Bad -- and stupid: According to a survey of the Test-to-Treat system by Kaiser Health News, many locales have no nearby clinics that can offer such services. Where there are clinics, there are online glitches, and for the non-tech savvy, things get especially tricky. In addition, some places charge up to $100 for in-person and telehealth Test-to-Treat visits. People without insurance, whose health plans don’t cover visits to the clinics or who have high-deductible plans must shoulder the full costs.

Solutions: Talk to your primary care physician about Test-to-Treat at his/her office -- before you need it, so you’re prepared. Order free at-home test kits ahead of time from And Kaiser Health News says Truepill offers online COVID-19 assessments and meds through its website Truepill, available in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., costs $25 to $55. 

The power of a glass of water

“Once I drink the water, I feel it immediately,” says Cameron Diaz. “I go from being a wilted plant to one that has been rejuvenated by the rain.” Cindy Crawford agrees: “Your body is so happy when you drink water.”  Well, your cardiologist is happy, too!

Researchers from the Laboratory of Vascular and Matrix Genetics at the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute recently published a study in the European Heart Journal. It shows that drinking enough water to maintain properly diluted levels of sodium in your blood might reduce your risk of heart failure. Looking at data on around 16,000 adults, they found that if you’ve got blood sodium levels above 142 mEq/L when you’re age 45 to 66, you are more likely to develop left ventricular hypertrophy -- that’s a thickening of the wall of the heart’s main pumping chamber -- and heart failure during the next 25 years of your life. In fact, you are 39% more likely -- that’s a huge bump in your risk. And every 1 mEq/L increase in your blood sodium levels from within the normal range of 135-146 mEq/L increases the likelihood of you developing heart failure by 5%.

So how much water do you need? Let your thirst be a guide, and that definitely changes depending on your activity level. Sweat more, drink more. But the minimum is around 6-8 cups a day for women and 8-12 cups for men. Remember: Avoid artificially sweetened and sugar/syrup-added beverages. Stick with water flavored with natural citrus and sugar-free electrolyte-restoring tablets.

By Drs. Mehmet Oz and Mike Roizen