By Gregory Lemos
As the Delta variant drives a surge of Covid-19 cases in Florida, a rapid-response unit will be deployed to administer monoclonal antibody treatments to residents infected with the virus, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday.
“This is the most effective treatment that we’ve yet encountered for people who are infected with Covid-19,” DeSantis said. “This, applied early and properly, has the ability to reduce your likelihood of being hospitalized.”
Monoclonal antibodies are intensely focused, lab-made versions of convalescent plasma. The antibodies come from people who have recovered from coronavirus. Researchers then take the blood, select the most potent antibodies, and make them into a drug.
Speaking from Jacksonville, DeSantis said beginning at noon Thursday, the rapid response unit will begin delivering monoclonal antibodies in the city.
The process will begin with referrals from the health systems, but the state is looking to move to allowing individuals to make appointments, he said. The intention is to expand the model to other parts of the state, the governor said.
The state will also be deploying strike teams to long-term care facilities as well, DeSantis said, and the state “is going to bring in a lot more Regeneron into Florida.” (Regeneron is a company that makes a monoclonal antibody treatment.)
DeSantis does not expect Covid-19 to be eradicated, he said.
“This is going to be with us for a long time,” he said. “Covid’s not going to go away. We’re going to have future trends. That’s just natural.”
Earlier this week, a US Department of Health and Human Services official said Florida had been sent 200 ventilators and 100 high-flow nasal cannula kits from the Strategic National Stockpile, though DeSantis told reporters he was unaware of the shipment and doubted it was true.
Florida Health Department spokesman Weesam Khoury confirmed the state had requested the equipment but told CNN in a statement Florida does not have a ventilator shortage. Khoury described the request as “a proactive measure to ensure there are consistent resources available in the state stockpile for deployment.”
Coronavirus cases have been spiking in Florida, with the latest weekly average of new daily cases increasing almost ninefold in the last month, to 19,250, according to a CNN analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. New weekly statistics for Florida are expected to be released Friday.
Vaccinations are rising, too, with more than 50,000 people in Florida initiating vaccination each day over the past week — the highest average daily pace since May 2020, the data shows.
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CNN’s Eliott C. McLaughlin, Virginia Langmaid, Deidre McPhillips, Kaitlan Collins and Devan Cole contributed to this report.