State creates new treatment for COVID-19 in long-term care centers

Utah Department of Health

(Carter Williams, KSL.com, File)


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SALT LAKE CITY – Along with the COVID-19 vaccine, Gov. Spencer Cox says there's a new treatment the state has to keep people from becoming extremely sick from the virus. However, not everyone will be eligible to get it.

It's called monoclonal antibody treatment, and state epidemiologist Angela Dunn says it's commonly used to treat many other viral diseases.

"What it does… someone is infected with COVID and we give them the antibodies to fight it before their body has a chance to make the antibodies, thus making the disease less severe," Dunn says. "They're extremely effective at preventing severe illness and hospitalization."

However, there's a catch. Dunn says nurses have an extremely narrow window in distributing the treatment. It has to be given to someone immediately after they're diagnosed with the disease. If someone waits until they're sick enough to be hospitalized, the antibodies won't work.

The state received 5,000 doses from the federal government, and officials are reserving all of those doses for residents in long-term care facilities. Dunn says that's where the largest portion of COVID-19 deaths occur.

She says, "It's so important to have that infrastructure in place to give [treatment] to those that are at the highest risk of disease."

The treatments have to be given through a blood infusion, and there aren't many facilities that can provide those. So, the state health department will be using fixed-site infusion centers and creating mobile infusion teams that can rush to a long-term care facility in case of an outbreak.

"What a better way to use a limited resource for this very effective treatment than giving to our long-term care facilities right when [patients] are diagnosed," Dunn says.

State officials say, apart from the vaccine, monoclonal antibodies will prevent more COVID-19 deaths than any other kind of treatment.

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