White people infected with COVID in New York State – the hardest hit state in the country – are in jeopardy of being turned away from potential lifesaving treatments in favor of other more at-risk races because of a national shortage of two promising types of medicaments.
In a shocking memo sent out by the state’s Health Department and approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday, white residents were told not to bother trying to get Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill or monoclonal antibody treatments.
‘Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19,’ the document reads.
The guidance comes as New York State set a one-day record of 76,555 for positive COVID tests, fueled by the Omicron variant, with more than 41,000 of those cases coming from New York City, according to data compiled by the health department.
However, the agency’s website does not detail the races of those infected.
Data from New York City’s official site shows the vaccination rate of white people at 63 percent, compared with 75 percent for Latinos, 58 percent for black residents and an astronomical 97 percent for Asians.
In a shocking memo sent out by the state’s Health Department and approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Monday, white residents were told not to bother trying to get Pfizer’s Paxlovid pill or monoclonal antibody treatments
The state’s missive, titled ‘COVID-19 Oral Antiviral Treatments Authorized and Severe Shortage of Oral Antiviral and Monoclonal Antibody Treatment Products,’ sets out a list of eligibility requirements for two oral antiviral treatments that had been touted as ‘available and lifesaving’ by the organization in an October press release.
In this week’s notice, however, department officials announced that the state was facing severe shortages in the availability of the two antiviral therapies, and subsequently listed a series of eligibility factors – such as age, weight, and mildness of symptoms – that practitioners are to take into account when administering the treatments.
The shortages have pushed New York’s Health officials to give members of ethnic group precedence when divvying out the sought-after drugs, said to be more effective at combating the latest mutation of the ever-present coronavirus, which has seen cases in New York City – as well as New York State – soar to record highs in recent weeks.
In the past week, the states’ hospitalization count has seen an astronomical increase of 63 percent from the week prior, while daily cases spiked to above 74,000, shattering its previous record, set Wednesday, of just over 67,000, with some 7,400 infected New Yorkers hospitalized across the state, the CDC says.
Prior to Wednesday, the state had never logged more than 50,000 cases in a single day. As of 10 days ago, it had never even seen 25,000.
‘Non-white race or Hispanic/Latino ethnicity should be considered a risk factor as longstanding systemic health and social inequities have contributed to an increased risk of severe illness and death from COVID-19,’ the document reads
In the past week, the states’ hospitalization count has seen an astronomical increase of 63 percent from the week prior, while daily cases spiked to above 74,000, shattering its previous record, set Wednesday, of just over 67,000, according to the CDC
Meanwhile, The City That Never Sleeps, once the epicenter of the initial outbreak in the US early last year, has seen a similar surge stemming from the Omicron variant, with CDC data showing that 1 in 50 Manhattan residents have tested positive in the past week
Meanwhile, the city, once the epicenter of the initial outbreak in the US early last year, has seen a similar surge stemming from the Omicron variant, with CDC data showing that 1 in 50 Manhattan residents have tested positive in the past week for the virus.
As of Thursday, the city saw 43,985 new cases, according to government data, thrusting its positivity rate to 23 – the highest it has ever been.
The influx of cases can be largely attributed to the new Omicron variant, which has become the dominant strain in the country since surfacing last month, now accounting for 59 percent of cases across the country.
The statement released by the state Health Department at the start of the week announced that the two COVID-19 antiviral therapies have received Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to combat the wave.
However, when determining eligibility for the potentially life-saving treatments, both thought to be more effective at quelling Omicron cases, the state made it explicitly clear that non-whites take precedent over others.
The policy was first flagged by New York journalist Karol Markowicz, who attempted to encapsulate the department’s strange stance with the phrase ‘white people need not apply’ – lampooning the notorious discriminatory messages commonly seen in windows of various establishments in New York City in the first half of the 20th century.
While compelling, the comparison drawn by Markowicz, a columnist for The New York Post and Fox News, is not entirely accurate.
Caucasians in the Empire State that find themselves stricken with COVID can still be eligible for antibody treatment, including Pfizer’s new drug as well as monoclonal treatments, which are administered in outpatient clinics through an IV/needle, but only if they first demonstrate that they have ‘a medical condition that increase[s] their risk for severe illness,’ the document states.
However, other races will have the significant advantage over their white counterparts of being automatically eligible without having to provide such a demonstration, due to the increased risk of severe illness or death for people of non-white denominations, as perceived by the state-run agency.
The reasoning behind the department’s policy, meanwhile, is mired in controversy, as both Pfizer’s pill, meant to be taken within the first few days of having COVID-19 and said to reduce the risk of hospitalization and death by up to 88 percent, and drugs using monoclonal antibody therapy have been thought to be more effective against the now-dominant Omicron variant.
However, despite Pfizer’s recent claims that its antiviral treatment is better suited than previous drugs against Omicron, the state’s statement warned that Sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody treatment ‘is the only authorized monoclonal antibody product expected to be effective against the omicron variant.’
Pictured here is an infusion bag of the monoclonal antibody drug Regeneron, which is administered in outpatient clinics through an IV/needle. Per the New York State Department of Health’s statement Monday, supplies of such treatments are scarce
Pfizer’s COVID-19 pill, pictured here being manufactured at a plant in Italy last month, is also in short supply. Per the department’s announcement this week, people of certain backgrounds have priority over others when it comes to getting the drug from their medical practitioner
Due to ‘a significant surge in cases and reduced effectiveness of existing therapeutics due to the omicron variant,’ the agency further warned that ‘supplies of oral antivirals will be extremely limited initially.’
As of this week, the agency said of its monoclonal antibody treatment: ‘supplies of Sotrovimab are extremely limited.’
Meanwhile, reports have surfaced of COVID-positive New Yorkers attempting to garner monoclonal treatments in hospitals across the state, but finding themselves turned away after lengthy wait times in infection-rife emergency rooms because they were under the age of 65 and not considered ‘at risk.’
Recent CDC data shows that black people as well as Hispanics are getting vaccinated at lower rates than whites – while Asians are getting vaccinated at higher rates than all other ethnic groups.
The data shows that for forty-two states surveyed, ’58 percent of white people had received at least one COVID-19 vaccine dose, which was close to the rate for Hispanic people (56 percent) but higher than the rate for black people (51 percent),’ while ‘the overall vaccination rate across states for Asian people was higher compared to white people (77 percent vs. 58 percent).’
The agency’s claims, while contentious, are not unfounded, with a recent USC study claiming that Latino and Hispanic persons had starkly higher odds of a positive COVID-19 test than that of caucasians – as well as higher odds of hospitalization and death.
The declaration comes after researchers at the University of California, San Diego, found last month that black Americans are 3.5 times as likely to test positive for COVID-19 than white Americans – while Hispanic Americans are almost five times as likely.