Opinion editor's note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom.


The window of time in which to use Paxlovid, a new and highly effective COVID-19 treatment, remains relatively narrow: The pills must be started within five days of symptom onset.

Fortunately, it just got easier in Minnesota to get tested and get a prescription at no cost for this potentially lifesaving medication. Three of the state's well-known community COVID testing sites in Brooklyn Park, Moorhead and Duluth will now additionally offer on-the-spot Paxlovid prescriptions to those who test positive and meet eligibility for its use.

The drug is authorized for those 12 and older who are at higher risk for hospitalization and death. At-risk groups include older adults and those who have certain medical conditions, including cancer; chronic kidney, liver or lung diseases; dementia; diabetes; mental illness; obesity; heart disease; or a weakened immune system.

The Brooklyn Park site began offering Paxlovid prescriptions on Friday, with Moorhead launching this service on Monday and Duluth on Tuesday. While it's OK to walk in without an appointment, reserving a time is encouraged. Just go to the link tinyurl.com/4f5juha6 and find your preferred location.

State health officials said they are working with the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy to take the next logical step: dispensing pills at these three sites. Until then, patients can take the prescription and have it filled at a pharmacy of their choosing.

Minnesotans seeking Paxlovid should be ready to share their medical history and current medication information with on-site clinicians. Providing this information is vital to avoid drug interactions and ensure that Paxlovid can be taken safely.

Research suggests that Paxlovid is close to 90% effective against hospitalization and death in patients at high risk of COVID complications. Another important point: Brooklyn Park, Moorhead and Duluth are not the only places to get a Paxlovid prescription.

Minnesotans' regular medical providers can continue to prescribe it. In addition, there are 61 other "test to treat" sites across the state, many of them at pharmacy locations. To find one, go to tinyurl.com/57438b29.

Reports of a COVID "rebound" — meaning symptoms might come back two to eight days after initial recovery — after taking Paxlovid might deter some from seeking it out. It shouldn't.

"This does not change our recommendations for what people should do. MDH still recommends that people who are eligible receive Paxlovid for treatment to help prevent severe disease," Minnesota Department of Health officials said.

The "rebound" is thought to be different from reinfection, health officials said, and there are no reports of severe disease from those who took Paxlovid and had symptoms return.

Everyone is understandably weary of the COVID pandemic. But vigilance, knowledge and action are still necessary to protect loved ones from the virus.