Florida rolls out at least 15 state-run COVID-19 treatment clinics

Merritt Island, Orlando clinics opened operations this week

In this undated image from video provided by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals on Friday, Oct. 2, 2020, vials are inspected at the company's facilities in New York state, for efforts on an experimental coronavirus antibody drug. Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help the immune system eliminate it. (Regeneron via AP) (Uncredited, Regeneron)

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. – Florida will have at least 15 state-run monoclonal antibody treatment sites where people can receive the treatment for free, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis.

During a news conference in South Florida Wednesday, he debuted a new clinic calling it another way to make the coronavirus treatment more widely available.

DeSantis spoke from C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines, a large-scale vaccine site located at the heart of hard-hit Broward County. Later in the day, DeSantis announced the opening of another clinic in West Palm Beach.

“The percentage of people who are being hospitalized, that are COVID positive are overwhelmingly people that have not been vaccinated,” he said. “And even more overwhelmingly are people that have not -- once infected -- got the monoclonal antibody treatment.”

DeSantis has been crisscrossing the state to open several COVID-19 antibody treatment clinics. This week, he debuted the clinic at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. Kiwanis Island Park on Meritt Island is now also a treatment location. The state also opened a similar clinic in Jacksonville and with the governor adding state-run sites will soon pop up in West Palm Beach and Miami-Dade County.

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By opening several sites offering the treatment, it helps keep people out of the hospital and frees up hospital staff to treat other patients as they don’t have to perform the treatment on individuals, the governor said.

Florida’s surgeon general issued a standing order that waives the need to have a doctor prescribe the treatment, according to DeSantis.

“So if you meet the basic criteria of the emergency use authorization, you can just make an appointment, you don’t even need to necessarily have that initial consultation,” DeSantis said. “You don’t necessarily need to have a prescription and so that makes it easier for folks. And so it cuts out your need to necessarily go see a doctor if you’re going to do it.”

With this mindset, the governor, along with Florida Division of Emergency Management officials said they are working to open 15 to 20 clinic sites like the one they debuted at C.B. Smith Park.

“The vaccines are preventative, they’re clearly one of the best tools we have in medicine to give you long-term protection against severe illness and deaths from COVID,” FDEM Chief Medical Officer Dr. Kenneth Scheppke said. “We need treatment now, not just prevention -- treatment, and there’s where the monoclonal antibodies come in.”

Scheppke said the vaccine can help people avoid severe illness, but as the state continues to grapple with the virus it is important to think about those who are vulnerable and can still suffer from COVID-19.

DeSantis stressed that clinics offer the treatment for free and warned people to avoid somewhere offering Regenoran for “thousands of dollars.”

The Regeneron was purchased by the federal government.

State-run clinics will have the capacity to treat at least 300 people a day. Individuals interested in the treatment can find a location or make an appointment online here.

Doctors warn that the Regeneron treatment is not a substitute for the COVID-19 vaccination. The monoclonal antibody treatment effectiveness only lasts for several weeks.