Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Englewood on Monday, Aug. 23 to announce the opening of a new monoclonal antibody treatment at the Tringali Community Center, 3460 N. Access Road off McCall Road (State Road 776). The announcement is part of the governor’s plan to make sure that everyone on the west coast of Florida has a location option for the treatment that is no more than an hour away.
The site will be open seven days a week, and up to 320 doses a day of the treatment called Regeneron can be administered. This medication is used to treat patients who have an active COVID-19 diagnosis, but who are not sick enough that they need to be hospitalized. According to the Florida Department of Health, it is also being used for high-risk patients who have been directly exposed to someone with COVID-19, as the treatment is said to decrease the odds of becoming infected with the virus by more than 80 percent.
This treatment has been available for some time but not widely publicized because it was a treatment given by private physicians. It works best with patients who have tested positive within the last 10 days. There is no charge for the treatment, as the whole stock of Regeneron was purchased by the federal government last year by the Trump administration.
At the press conference DeSantis acknowledged that the newest spike in the virus, is going to end up with almost everyone being exposed at some point in time, and the fact that everyone will know someone who has had the virus.
The Englewood treatment center will service not only Charlotte County residents, but south Sarasota County residents and north Lee County residents as well. There will be another site opening in Manatee County to service residents there, as well as residents from northern Sarasota County. A few more sites may be added, DeSantis said, with the total amount eventually being 21 clinics.
“This is a not a substitute for vaccination,” he said. “This is in addition to vaccinations. Of those in the hospitals, 80 to 90 percent are not vaccinated. People who are vaccinated are getting COVID, and the protection from infection is obviously waning in some of those cases. That’s why booster shots are a good idea. Either way, those who have been vaccinated usually have milder cases. But if you are infected, vaccinated or not, and you are at a higher risk, this treatment has a very, very good track record for helping people.”
DeSantis said when the Regeneron treatment was first administered, it was by IV only. That meant it took longer to administer the treatment but using the subcutaneous method that is used now many more treatments can be provided each day.
These treatments are highly encouraged for those who have COVID-19 and are in a high-risk group, meaning an older people, those who have heart or lung conditions, kidney problems or diabetes, those who are considered to be morbidly obese or are immunocompromised.
Ken Scheppke, Chief Medical Officer for Florida’s division of emergency management, spoke about vaccinations and this monoclonal treatment is a valuable two-part process in treatment of COVID-19.
“The problem is, the vaccination can take up to six weeks to start working for some people,” he said. “If you get infected today, what was missing before was the treatment arm of our plan. This highly-effective treatment can help you today and will give you the antibodies that will directly target the virus attacking your system and can reduce your chances of hospitalization or death by 70 percent.”
Florida’s surgeon general issued a standing order that waives the need to have a doctor prescribe the treatment, so anyone who has tested positive for COVID can call and make an appointment. You will be assessed upon arrival at the clinic to determine if Regeneron is the appropriate treatment method, whether you have a doctor’s referral or not. Once administered, the effects of the treatment will last for several weeks but not indefinitely.
The Englewood site will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week. To find out how to sign up go to floridahealthcovid19.gov.