MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The nation’s health leaders say the summer surge is only getting worse.
The Centers for Disease Control believes up to 44,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 over the next three weeks. But there’s a treatment helping some Minnesotans stay out of the hospital.READ MORE: Grandma, 102, Attends Both Grandsons' Football Game After Recovering From COVID
When former President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19, he received monoclonal antibodies, a treatment with emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration.
It’s designed to keep people out of the hospital if they catch COVID-19.
The federal government is fronting the cost, so Minnesotans can access it practically for free.
“We have approximately 70 sites in the state offering it. We have over 3,000 doses available as of today,” said Alexandra Waterman, medical surge coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Health.
So who is getting this treatment today?
Monoclonal antibody treatment with bamlanivimab and etesevimab — or with casirivimab and imdevimab (pictured above) — are for those who test positive for COVID-19 and have mild to moderate symptoms. You have to be older than 12 and weigh more than 88 pounds to be eligible. And people who could get really sick from COVID-19 are prioritized, so people with comorbidities like asthma or diabetes.
People can also receive the treatment if they are eligible and have a known exposure. And the sooner you get it, the better.
“You do want to get it within 10 days of symptom onset. The first seven days is ideal,” said Jon Schock, pharmacy director at Alomere Health in Alexandria.
Schock said Alomere Health has given the IV treatment to more than 200 people. Less than five of them were admitted to the hospital.READ MORE: MN Doctor Says Hospitals Strained By COVID Patients, And 'Vaccination Is The Answer'
As cases pick up, so does demand for the treatment.
“The month of June we hardly gave any. I think we gave three doses the whole month, but now the last two weeks we’ve given almost 30 doses,” said Schock.
“I really thought patients would be breaking down my door to get this medication and that has not really happened so I wonder if there is some knowledge deficit,” said Dr. Venkat Iyer, vice president for medical specialties at Allina Health Group.
Iyer said they’ve given 650 people the treatment since last January.
“None of them developed severe disease or even got hospitalized,” said Iyer.
Iyer said it also lessens symptoms, shortens sickness and makes you less contagious.
Doctors say this is not a substitute for the vaccine.
Medicare and most private insurance covers the administrative costs of getting the treatment, which is typically hundreds of dollars, not thousands.
Schock said the IV process typically takes a few hours as there is a mandatory hourlong monitoring period after treatment.
Waterman said the monoclonal antibody treatment was recently approved to be administered in the form of a shot but in Minnesota, the predominant method being used currently is IV treatment.MORE NEWS: COVID In MN: MDH Reports 2,645 More Virus Cases As Latest Positivity Rate Hovers At 7.1%
Talk to your primary care physician if you test positive for COVID-19 or have a known exposure about possible treatment options. Click here for more information about eligibility for the treatment.