Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Monday press conference in Orlando.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at a Monday press conference in Orlando.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced a third monoclonal antibody treatment site on Tuesday, the second such announcement in as many days.

“Since we began expanding access to monoclonal antibody treatment sites in Florida, there have been more and more people asking about these therapies,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Today, I am proud to continue the momentum and announce the opening of an additional monoclonal antibody treatment site in Brevard County. Monoclonals are safe and have proven to significantly reduce the chance that somebody ends up being hospitalized for COVID.”

Last week DeSantis announced a site in Jacksonville, followed by a Monday announcement in Orlando, which can serve more than 300 patients a day.

COVID-19 hospitalizations continue trending upward in Florida, with more than 15,000 currently admitted across the state. In Gainesville, UF Health Shands Hospital reported 231 patients as of Monday, while North Florida Regional Medical Center reported 171 COVID-positive patients as of last Thursday.

“At the end of the day, reducing hospitalizations has got to be a top priority,” DeSantis said at a press conference in Orlando. He noted that hospital systems say more than 90 percent of their COVID patients have not had monoclonal antibody treatments, which he called a “a tool in the toolbox that needs to be used.”

Both North Florida Regional Medical Center and UF Health have area locations where people can receive the monoclonal treatments.

UF Health is offering the Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment free of charge to community members within 10 days of a positive COVID-19 test, said UF Health spokesman Ken Garcia said in an email. This is offered across the UF Health system in Gainesville, Jacksonville and The Villages to individuals with mild to moderate COVID-19 symptoms.

The appointment involves an infusion of the antibodies, which takes about two hours from start to finish.

In Gainesville, patients are seen by appointment at the Clinical Research Center (CRC) in the Clinical and Translational Research Building. COVID-positive patients enter the building through a separate entrance and undergo the infusion separated from other patients being seen for clinical trials and research. Often they are are infused inside a mobile unit, the Clinical Research Vehicle. Although patients are seen at the CRC, this therapy is not part of a research study.

At North Florida Regional Medical Center, there are four area locations where patients can receive the monoclonal treatment:

  • North Florida main hospital: 6500 W. Newberry Road
  • Millhopper ER: 4388 NW 53rd Ave.
  • West End ER: 12311 W. Newberry Rd., Newberry
  • Starke ER: 922 E. Call St.

“Monoclonal antibody treatments can be used for vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals 12 years of age and older who have tested positive for the virus and for those who are at a high risk for severe illness or immunocompromised, including the most vulnerable,” said Gary Gillette, the North Florida Regional Medical Center emergency medicine medical director in a statement provided to Mainstreet Daily News.

To be eligible to receive a monoclonal antibody treatment, a person must have tested positive for COVID-19 and meet the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) criteria, but a referral is not necessary. The treatment is offered through an IV infusion, which generally takes about 20 minutes, followed by a 1-hour monitoring period, post infusion.

“While the COVID-19 vaccine is one of the most effective treatment options we have to combat the virus, studies have shown that monoclonal antibody treatments are safe and effective in the prevention of major side effects from the virus—which found a 70 percent reduction of patients requiring hospitalization after the infusion,” Gillette said.

After receiving the infusion, Gillette said it is important to self-isolate, wear a facial covering, and follow proper hygiene procedures to help prevent the spread of the virus.

To find locations to receive monoclonal antibody treatments around the entire state, visit floridahealthcovid19.gov.

For COVID-19 testing and vaccinations, the Alachua County Health Department recently updated their available times and days.

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