SALT LAKE CITY — Amid Utah's current COVID-19 surge, Intermountain Healthcare professionals are raising awareness about a treatment for the disease that can be very effective in preventing severe symptoms and hospitalization from the virus.
But to be most effective, the monoclonal antibody therapy treatment needs to be administered within seven days after a person begins experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, according to Dr. Brandon Webb, an infectious diseases physician with Intermountain. So doctors are urging people to get tested for COVID-19 as quickly as possible after they start noticing any symptoms.
"We really need to encourage patients to get tested early after their symptoms start," Webb said Monday.
The Utah Department of Health reported 2,018 new COVID-19 cases over the weekend, including 948 on Friday, 662 on Saturday and 403 on Sunday.
Nine more deaths were also reported, and 380 COVID-19 patients are currently hospitalized, according to the health department. A total of 18,877 more vaccine doses were administered over the weekend.
The antibody treatment infuses a COVID-19 patient's blood with antibodies that latch onto the virus, as opposed to the vaccines, which prompt a person's immune system to create its own antibodies, Webb said. The monoclonal antibody treatment has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since December, and has been used in Utah since then, he added.
A recent Intermountain study revealed that the treatment can be very effective in real-world settings, though, said Webb, who was the lead author for the study. In the study, the treatment was administered to about 600 patients and then compared to outcomes of over 5,000 COVID-19 patients who didn't receive the treatment.
Patients who got the treatment during the study were 57% less likely to need hospitalization, Webb said.
"These results are very encouraging," he said. "They emphasize that these truly are an important tool for treating patients."
Monoclonal antibody treatments are most effective in patients who are unvaccinated, at a higher risk for COVID-19, and who are early on in the course of their disease, Webb said.
The treatment drug casirivimab with imdevimab is widely available in the U.S. but has to be administered by a health care professional through an IV in a health care facility setting such as an infusion center, urgent care or hospital, Webb said. Though the drug is widely available, there can be difficulties finding health care workers and places to administer the treatment.
The Utah Department of Health created a risk score calculator to determine which patients would be prioritized for the treatment, based on risk factors for COVID-19. More information is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/noveltherapeutics.
Getting vaccinated against COVID-19 is still the most important way to prevent severe disease and death, Intermountain said in a statement. But for those people who do get COVID-19, the monoclonal treatments can be an important tool.
"We suspected that these monoclonal antibody treatments would be safe for patients based on results from clinical trials, but we were excited to find that these treatments can be very safely delivered to a variety of patients in a real-world setting," Webb said.
9 more deaths
Utah's rolling seven-day average number of positive cases per day is now at 827, according to the health department. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "people over people" method is now 14.4%. The positive test rate per day for that time period calculated with the "test over test" method is now 10.3%.
The nine deaths reported over the weekend were:
- A Salt Lake County man who was between the ages of 45 and 64 and was not hospitalized when he died.
- A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Weber County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Box Elder County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Davis County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Utah County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Davis County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
- A Utah County man, 65-84, hospitalized.
- A Salt Lake County man, 45-64, hospitalized.
Of the 380 people hospitalized in Utah today, 160 are in intensive care. About 78% of all intensive care unit hospital beds in Utah are now occupied, including 80% of beds in the state's 16 referral hospitals. About 55% of Utah's non-ICU hospital beds are now occupied, state data shows.
There have now been 3,084,676 total vaccine doses administered in Utah. A total of 1,712,288 Utahns, or about 53.4% of the state's total population, have now received a first dose of the vaccine, and 1,504,113 Utahns, or about 46.9% of the state's population, are fully vaccinated.
For vaccine-eligible Utahns ages 12 and older, 66.1% have received at least a first dose of the vaccine, and 58% are fully vaccinated.
Of the 2,974,486 people tested for COVID-19 in Utah so far, 14.8% have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of total tests conducted in Utah since the pandemic began is now at 5,407,488, up 23,577 since Friday. Of those, 14,278 were tests of people who hadn't previously been tested for COVID-19.
Monday's totals give Utah 440,497 total confirmed cases, with 19,004 total hospitalizations and 2,503 total deaths from the disease. Five more COVID-19 cases that were from before Friday were added to the health department's total case count.
More information about Utah's health guidance levels is available at coronavirus.utah.gov/utah-health-guidance-levels.
Information is from the Utah Department of Health and coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts. For more information on how the Utah Department of Health compiles and reports COVID-19 data, visit coronavirus.utah.gov/case-counts and scroll down to the "Data Notes" section at the bottom of the page.