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Church hands out free Paxlovid treatments amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Dozens receive free COVID-19 medication at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church
boxes of Paxlovid on table at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Feb. 18, 2024
Posted at 1:10 PM, Feb 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-02-18 13:42:37-05

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Dozens of people in West Palm Beach got access to free doses of the COVID-19 treatment Paxlovid, a packaged medication that can cost nearly $1,400.

The Centers for Health Promotion, in conjunction with New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, handed out the anti-viral treatment to members of the community Sunday morning in the Tamarind Avenue area.

The treatment, which was provided by the Florida Department of Health, was given away as the FDOH reports there have been nearly 100,000 cases of COVID-19 across the state since the start of 2024.

At the same time, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the JN.1 variant is causing 92% of cases across the country.

"Seemingly every week we are still dealing with the COVID-19 virus," Toby Philpart, senior pastor at New Bethel Baptist Church, said. "COVID is still real."

Paxlovid box on table at New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Feb. 18, 2024
A box of the COVID-19 medication Paxlovid sits on a table inside New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church, Feb. 18, 2024, in West Palm Beach, Fla.

In October, Pfizer issued a news release stating it would price Paxlovid at $1,390 per course of treatment.

Dr. Dwight Reynolds, overseeing the Paxlovid giveaway, said without insurance, many lower-income communities and some minority groups won't have equal access to the medication, which is currently the only treatment for COVID-19.

"My mission for the last two-and-a-half years has been to deliver to the people, that have no access or cannot afford it, certain medications, whether it's the vaccine or, in this case, Paxlovid," Reynolds said. "So, our job is to continue to push these things into different communities of color and also in rural Florida."

Philpart said the pandemic shutdown "taught us some things," mainly "that we need to come outside of the four walls of the church in the area of chronic diseases, and it has been exciting, to say the least."

He said they will continue handing out the anti-viral medication every Sunday from 9 a.m. to noon at the church until supplies run out.

The church is located at 911 Ninth St. in West Palm Beach.

Reynolds urged those who receive the packaged medication to scan the QR code on the box to consult a doctor's instruction before using the treatment.