Florida, Texas open Covid antibody treatment centers as rising delta overwhelms hospitals

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is holding a press conference to announce the opening of a monoclonal antibody treatment site to help COVID-19 patients recover at Orlando’s Camping World Stadium.

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Florida and Texas open free monoclonal antibody centers to treat a wave of Covid-19 patients in both states, in the hope that early intervention will help keep people out of hospitals and save more lives, even while governors of both states fight against masked local officials and vaccine warrants.

Texas is setting up nine antibody infusion centers, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Friday, while Florida launched its fifth place Wednesday. With the growing delta variant, more than 46% of Texas intensive care beds and more than half of Florida’s ICU capacity were filled with coronavirus patients as of Thursday, compared to 27% at all. the country, according to the Department of Health and Human Services.

“What puts you in the hospital is inflammation. People get inflamed in the lungs,” Dr. Arturo Casadevall, president of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health, told CNBC in an interview. Johns Hopkins. “So what these antibodies do is that if you give them to a patient early, they will neutralize the virus.”

Abbott has first-hand experience with the treatment. His office announced Tuesday that he would receive treatment with Regeneron’s monoclonal antibodies after testing positive for Covid, despite being fully vaccinated.

Although monoclonal antibodies, such as Regeneron and GlaxoSmithKline treatments, are one of the few proven methods to fight the virus and reduce hospitalizations, they have rarely been used throughout the pandemic because they are difficult to administer. Treatments with monoclonal antibodies should be injected directly into the vein using an intravenous infusion, which requires time and dedicated medical personnel, often using the same equipment reserved for patients with chemotherapy.

The Food and Drug Administration granted Regeneron treatment an emergency use authorization in November, saying it reduced Covid’s hospitalizations “in patients at high risk of disease progression within 28 days of treatment. “. GlaxoSmithKline just got emergency approval for its treatment with Vir Biotechnology in May, saying it reduced hospitalizations and deaths in high-risk patients by about 85%.

The FDA authorized the treatments of both companies for use in patients from 12 years of age.

“Many patients, who are evaluated by their doctors and receive an infusion of monoclonal antibodies, are less likely to be hospitalized,” Teresa Farfán, a spokeswoman for the Texas Division of Emergency Management, said in an email on CNBC. “This helps ensure that resources are available in hospitals to treat those with the most severe cases of the virus.”

Treatment centers could not arrive soon enough, as the delta variant pushes cases in Florida to record highs. The state, which reports its cases once a week on Fridays, most recently reported a seven-day record average of nearly 21,700 new infections, 12.6 percent more than a week ago, according to an analysis by CNBC data compiled by Hopkins. Texas has been approaching the record highs of more than 23,000 average cases a day set in January in recent weeks, reporting a seven-day average of just over 15,400 new infections on Thursday, compared to a seven-day average of about 3,000 a month ago.

“I want to be very clear: both monoclonal and vaccine-saving lives,” Florida Gov. Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for Gov. Ron DeSantis, said in an email to CNBC, “They certainly aren’t mutually exclusive.”

More than 34% of the 50,706 hospitalized patients reported in Florida have coronavirus, as well as more than a quarter of the 51,337 hospitalized patients in Texas, according to HHS, as of Thursday. Abbott last week called in 2,500 medical staff across the country to help fight the virus and called on hospitals to build capacity by postponing election procedures.

A box and a vial of the Regeneron monoclonal antibody is seen at a new COVID-19 treatment site opened by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at Camping World Stadium in Orlando after a press conference.

Paul Hennessy | LightRocket | Getty Images

Although Abbott and DeSantis have urged residents to get vaccinated, they continue to strongly oppose masks or vaccination warrants, saying they violate personal freedoms. Republican governors have banned local governments and school districts from requiring facial covers. Abbott has threatened fines of $ 1,000 for those who fail to comply and DeSantis said he will withhold remuneration from educators who send masks.

With many children returning to classrooms this fall, local officials are backtracking. Several school districts in both states have challenged their governors ’orders and reinstated their mask warrants, and Dallas and San Antonio appeals courts have issued temporary restraining orders last week to circumvent the ban.

The Texas Supreme Court on Sunday blocked the restraining orders, siding with Abbott and preventing school districts from issuing their own guidelines. Local officials say they plan to continue fighting Abbott in court, and President Joe Biden on Wednesday directed the education secretary to intervene “to protect our children.”

“This includes using all their control authorities and legal actions, where appropriate, against governors who try to block and intimidate local school officials and educators,” Biden said.

Dr. Bruce Farber, head of infectious diseases at Northwell Health in New York, said states that do not allow schools to force masks are at high risk this fall.

“Those states that play, according to my way of looking at it,” he said in an interview. “By not allowing masking and avoiding masking and leaving it in the hands of parents, (they) are really playing with fire.”