What the new federal website can and cannot do for you

Key points to remember

  • COVID.gov can help you find locations for vaccines, boosters, tests, and treatments.
  • You can use the site to order up to eight home test kits for COVID-19.
  • The White House is currently awaiting much-needed COVID-19 funding from Congress. If the money is not granted, the White House may not be able to provide some of the services listed on the new website.

On March 30, the White House launched COVID.gov to help people access information about COVID-19 transmission, vaccine appointments, tests, treatments, masks, and educational resources.

The “one-stop website,” as the Biden administration describes the site in a press release, serves primarily to consolidate COVID-19 information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While health experts believe the site will be useful, the lack of real-time information is a major point of criticism.

“I think this website doesn’t offer much more than what was previously available, except it’s all on one website and easily accessible to the public,” Aaron Glatt, MD, chief of infectious diseases at Mount Sinai South Nassau in West Hempstead, NY, Verywell said. “Health care providers will likely have to dig deeper. But for the average layman, it should be fine.

The first component of the page is interactive and tailored to the individual; users can search for a county to find out the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the area. But beyond that, users must click through to other websites, like Vaccines.gov, to search for vaccines in their ZIP code, or a site powered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to find medicine for COVID-19 locally.

Languages ​​and accessibility

COVID.gov is available in English, Spanish, and Simplified Chinese. Information is also available by phone at 1-800-232-0233 (TTY 1-888-720-7489). This number supports more than 150 languages, according to the White House. For people with disabilities who may need additional support, the Disability Access and Information Line (DIAL) is available to assist at 1-888-677-1199 or email [email protected] .org.

How to use the site?

Public health experts believe that COVID.gov can be a useful resource for keeping up to date with the risk of COVID-19 transmission. It can also help people know what kinds of prevention and treatment methods are right for them.

“I would advise people to check the page regularly — at least once a week, because they do a weather forecast — to see if anything has changed regarding community transmission where they live,” emergency physician Leana Wen, MD, professor in health policy and management at George Washington University, Verywell said.

Wen adds that people can also use the site “to come up with their plan if they get COVID, like where they would go to get tested and what treatments they would be eligible for.”

Actually connecting users to these treatments, however, may be slightly beyond the capabilities of the site at this time.

Kavita Patel, MD, a primary care physician in Washington, D.C., and chief health officer during the Obama administration, told Verywell that the Test-to-Treat locations section is linked to a federal pharmacy database. with COVID-19 antiviral pills, which is “completely inaccurate and problematic”.

Patel said the federal database does not 100% reflect the current local supply of antivirals.

“Because Test-to-Treat requires a real-time sense of pharmaceutical inventory, there probably needs to be another way to display limitations on the COVID.org website,” she said.

What is the test to treat?

Test-to-Treat is a White House initiative to enable faster administration of COVID-19 antiviral pills. Those who are eligible will be able to take a test at a pharmacy and immediately receive prescription drugs if they test positive.

How the site can fail

Maintaining an accurate inventory representation of COVID-19 antiviral drugs like Paxlovid is particularly important, as it is a drug that patients should seek out on their own.

When Alex Star,* a cancer patient near Boston, returned from a trip earlier this week and tested positive for COVID-19, he consulted COVID.gov before contacting his doctor about a prescription for Paxlovid. Star told Verywell that his doctor wanted him to start the drug immediately – it is most effective within five days of the onset of symptoms – and sent him to a pharmacy that did not appear in the database. COVID.gov.

As staff at his cancer hospital constantly monitor the supply of COVID-19 antivirals, Star’s doctor knew there was only one pharmacy in the area with Paxlovid on hand, and that the database was out of date.

If Congress does not provide the COVID-19 relief funding requested by Biden, COVID.gov may prove even less helpful to consumers. According to a White House fact sheet released this week, the Biden administration needs $22.5 billion in immediate emergency funds.

Due to lack of funding, over the past two weeks the administration has begun to scale back many modalities that COVID.gov is supposed to report, such as monoclonal antibody treatments and vaccines for the prevention of COVID-19 at the time. ‘to come up. .

“If we fail to invest,” President Biden said in a speech announcing the new website this week, “we are making ourselves vulnerable if another wave of the virus hits.”

*The name has been changed for privacy reasons.

The information in this article is current as of the date indicated, which means that more recent information may be available when you read this. For the most recent updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news page.

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