Last updated May 5, 2023 at 4:33 PM
Medications to treat COVID-19 are free, widely available, and effective for stopping COVID-19 illness from getting serious. Everyone 12 years and older who has symptoms and tests positive for COVID-19 should ask a doctor about treatment.
On this page:
- How to find treatment
- Facts about COVID-19 treatment
- When to get treatment
- Tribal COVID-19 Treatments Access Tool
- More information about COVID-19 treatment
How to find treatment
Act quickly. COVID-19 medications work best when started within the first 5-7 days of symptoms. Medications are free regardless of insurance or citizenship status, but you must get a prescription.
Options for getting a prescription for COVID-19 medication include:
- Contact your doctor, urgent care center, or insurance provider for an appointment. Video or phone appointments will work.
- Call the statewide COVID-19 hotline at 833-422-4255.
- Find a Test-to-Treat location near you. These sites can provide COVID-19 tests and also prescribe COVID-19 medications. To find a site use the COVID-19 Test to Treat Locator.
- Some pharmacies may be able to give you a prescription for treatment. Call your pharmacy to see if they offer this service.
If you don’t have insurance or the options above don’t work:
Click here or call 833-686-5051 to make a free phone or video appointment through California’s COVID-19 telehealth service.
Note: If you are not able to get a prescription from your doctor, but think you should be eligible for treatment, click here or call 833-686-5051 to make a phone or video appointment with California’s free COVID-19 telehealth provider. You can also show your doctor CDPH’s recommendations on treatment.
Facts about COVID-19 treatment
- Most COVID-19 treatments are pills that you take at home. COVID-19 medications are free in California. You don’t need to have insurance or be a U.S. citizen.
- COVID-19 medications work best when started as soon as possible, within the first 5-7 days of symptoms. If you think you may have COVID, don’t wait for symptoms to get worse.
- COVID-19 medications are safe and effective at stopping COVID-19 illness from getting serious. They can lower the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 by half or more.
- COVID-19 medications may help you test negative sooner, and may reduce the risk of long COVID symptoms.*
- COVID-19 medications are recommended for people 12 years and older who have certain health conditions or other common factors that increase risk. A doctor can tell you if you are eligible to receive COVID-19 medications and which type is best for you.
- COVID-19 medications are effective whether you are vaccinated or not.
- If you test positive for COVID-19, have symptoms, and meet the following criteria, you should seek treatment:
- You are 50 years old or older –OR–
- You are unvaccinated or not up-to-date with COVID-19 vaccinations –OR–
- You have a health condition or other factors that increase risk. These include obesity, asthma, diabetes, lack of physical activity, smoking, mental health conditions such as depression, being of a racial/ethnic minority, and more. Learn more about medical conditions that increase the risk of serious illness from COVID-19. Click here for more information on mental health and mood conditions.
* Early evidence suggests that the COVID-19 medication Paxlovid may decrease the risk of developing long COVID symptoms. These symptoms can last for weeks, months, or years after a COVID-19 infection.
When to get treatment
COVID-19 medications must be taken within the first 5-7 days of symptoms.
If you have COVID-19 symptoms, take a COVID-19 test as soon as possible. At-home test results are okay. Click here for more information on how to get tested.
If you test positive for COVID-19, seek treatment right away. Do not wait for symptoms to get worse. Stay home and isolate to prevent spreading the disease to others. Even if you are vaccinated or have had COVID-19 before, you should isolate for at least 5 full days. Learn about isolation guidelines.
If your test is negative but you continue to have symptoms, test again 24-48 hours later. Low amounts of virus early in infection can be missed, and you can test positive a few days later.
If you have severe COVID-19 symptoms including trouble breathing, chest pain, confusion, or trouble staying awake, go to the emergency room or call 911 right away.
Test it. Treat it. You can beat it.
Medications to treat COVID-19 are free, safe, and effective. They can stop COVID-19 illness from getting serious and prevent hospitalization and death. Medication is widely available and recommended for most people 12 years and older. COVID-19 medications work best when taken within the first 5-7 days of symptoms.
COVID-19 medications have been shown to stop COVID-19 illness from getting serious. They can lower the risk of serious illness, hospitalization, and death from COVID-19 by half or more. They may help you test negative sooner. Early evidence also suggests that the COVID-19 medication Paxlovid may decrease the risk of developing long COVID symptoms.
Tribal COVID-19 Treatments Access Tool
California tribal members can use our Tribal COVID-19 Treatments Access tool to find nearby Indian Health Care providers who may be able to prescribe COVID-19 medication.
More information about COVID-19 treatment
For more information about COVID-19 treatments and help with finding treatment, call the statewide COVID-19 hotline at 833-422-4255.
The statewide call center is open 7 days a week:
- Monday-Friday, 8:00 AM to 8:00 PM Pacific Time
- Saturday and Sunday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM Pacific Time
Learn more about COVID-19 treatment:
- CDPH: Top 5 Tips to Prevent Winter Viruses Fact Sheet
- CDPH: COVID-19 Treatments Communications Tools
- CDPH: COVID-19 Treatment Resources for Healthcare Providers
- FDA: Know Your Treatment Options for COVID-19