Free masks at N.O. firehouses; DePaul Health Centers offer test-to-treat services

Some New Orleans fire fighters are offering free masks to the public as COVID-19 cases increase...
Some New Orleans fire fighters are offering free masks to the public as COVID-19 cases increase in the city.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) – As COVID cases rapidly increase again the city of New Orleans urges people to take advantage of anti-viral treatments and free masks.

At Fire Station 1 on Magazine Street there are lots of new masks in boxes waiting to be doled out to people who show up and ask for a mask. It is one of four fire stations around town giving out the masks.

The city’s health department is urging everyone to wear masks indoors or in crowded spaces and also to get tested if they think they were exposed to the virus.

DePaul Community Health Centers are playing an important role. The healthcare entity offers the test-to-treat program.

Dr. Stacy Greene is an infectious diseases specialist at DePaul.

“Test to treat is basically if a person has mild to moderate symptoms of COVID they can come into our organization, our clinics to actually get tested for COVID. We actually have rapid PCR tests, with a rapid PCR test we are able to get a result within about 15 minutes. If that test actually comes out positive we are actually prescriptions if clinically necessary, anti-viral medications to treat COVID-19,” he said.

Paxlovid is one of the anti-viral therapies offered.

“We have Paxlovid, we also have Molnupiravir. Paxlovid is basically three tablets twice a day for about five days. Starting this therapy within five days of symptoms prevents hospitalization and death by about 89%,” said Greene.

New Orleans Health Department Director Dr. Jennifer Avegno says Paxlovid is now widely available and can be administered to many COVID-positive people.

“It’s appropriate for most people with any one or more of high-risk conditions, and if you remember the high-risk conditions it’s a really wide range, it’s anything from smoking to cancer, to diabetes to high blood pressure to obesity,” said Avegno.

Greene said the drug will help keep some people out of the hospital.

“So, with the numbers going up that puts people at risk for being hospitalized, that puts people at risk for dying, so with this therapy, it actually, can actually treat the disease and prevent hospitalization rates and death rates going up COVID-19,” said Greene.

He says there is still an opportunity to access DePaul’s test-to-treat program.

“They can call to set up a clinic appointment,” said Green. “And we’ll be glad to see any and everybody.”

The number to call for an appointment at DePaul is (504) 207-3060.

Greene says vaccinations and booster shots remain important amid the ongoing pandemic.

“One of the greatest tools we actually have in our toolbox for fighting COVID-19 besides the anti-viral therapy is the vaccination, so I still encourage people to get vaccinated, get boosted because the data actually shows that vaccinations save lives,” said Greene.

The New Orleans Health Department says the following fire stations are doling out masks:

– Station 1: 2920 Magazine St.

– Station 29: 317 Decatur St.

– Station 36 5401 Read Blvd.

– Station 40: 2500 General De Gaulle Dr.

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