Gov. Ron DeSantis says new sites will open in South Florida to help provide early treatment for individuals who test positive for COVID-19.
Monoclonal antibody therapy has shown signs it can help patients avoid severe symptoms if therapy is initiated early in an infection. With hospitals overwhelmed in South Florida and across the state, the Governor said the additional therapy locations could help the state’s health care workers.
“Even vaccinated people are testing positive. So once that happens, the goal is to get people to just have a swift recovery without needing to go into the hospital,” DeSantis said Wednesday.
“If we can end up doing some of these treatments through these sites, that’s going to take pressure off the hospital admissions.”
The Governor said the treatments would be available to high-risk populations. That includes those who are elderly, immunocompromised, morbidly obese, living with diabetes, have kidney problems or suffer from heart and lung conditions.
DeSantis appeared at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, the site of a new Broward County treatment location that opened Wednesday. The location will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. for free monoclonal antibody treatments. The Governor said the site can handle more than 300 individual treatments per day.
“Your chance of being severely ill is greatly reduced if you have been vaccinated,” DeSantis said Wednesday. “But on the back end, if you do get infected — whether you’re vaccinated or not — clinical data and real-world data shows that if you avail yourselves of a monoclonal antibody treatment at the appropriate time, you will reduce your chance of being hospitalized by about 70%.”
Critics have assailed the Governor for framing the vaccination decision as a personal choice, arguing DeSantis should more forcefully rally people to get the shot. DeSantis has, however, repeatedly said vaccines are protecting people and continued that messaging Wednesday. But he added that monoclonal antibody treatments may be a necessary part of the solution as the delta variant runs rampant through the state and other parts of the U.S.
“Even if you’re vaccinated, this treatment is available for you,” DeSantis said. “The vaccine is preventative and then this monoclonal (treatment) is ameliorative on the back end.”
The antibody cocktail will be provided by Regeneron, which the Governor said showed more effectiveness against the delta variant. The key is getting treated early. While hospitals are using the treatment for those admitted, DeSantis said the goal is to have patients receive the therapy before hospitalization.
“Once you’re sick enough to where you’re going to be admitted, the antibody at that point is not able to counteract the virus,” DeSantis explained. “If you go in and get it prior to the need for hospitalization, the track record is very, very good.”
DeSantis also floated that sites will be opening in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties. The Governor is visiting West Palm Beach Wednesday afternoon with a stop at Westgate Park.
Patients won’t need a referral. They can simply set up an account online to get access.
DeSantis said his Wednesday announcement has two aims.
“We’re expanding access, but we’re also raising the visibility of this,” he said.
There are signs South Florida’s case counts could be peaking, though it’s unclear how children returning to school en masse will affect those trends. Even if cases begin falling soon, however, hospitals will likely continue to be overwhelmed for weeks. That’s because individuals can enter or remain in hospitals for days or weeks after infections.
Palm Beach County recently declared a state of emergency due to the lack of hospital bed space. Broward has required masks in schools — in defiance of the Governor — while Miami-Dade is considering a similar measure.