Sick COVID patients lie on the ground at an antibody treatment site in Florida

The city of Jacksonville rushed this week to increase the number of wheelchairs at state-run sites that provide Regeneron, the monoclonal antibody treatment for COVID-19, after an influx of patients needing care.

The city revealed the effort when asked about a photo taken Wednesday on the city’s public library site, which showed a woman, face down on the ground, while awaiting treatment.

Louie Lopez, who took the photo Wednesday, told ABC News that the woman in the foreground, and another person in the photo lying in the background, appeared very ill.

“These people would come in and feel so bad that they would lie down,” Lopez told ABC News on Thursday. Lopez said that after a while, staff members at the site addressed the woman, covering her with a blue robe “to warm her up,” before “putting her in a wheelchair.”

Lopez said that to his surprise, he was treated earlier than any of the people who had been on the ground, although his only symptom was a headache.

A city spokesperson confirmed to ABC News that according to the site’s organizers, the woman in the photo was waiting to be dealt with Regeneron.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has been an advocate for monoclonal antibodies, scouring the state in recent days to encourage people to seek treatment if they test positive, as many overwhelmed hospitals across the state struggled to meet the needs of the thousands of patients.

“The governor’s message is extremely clear. Every time he has made a public comment on Regeneron, he has emphasized and reiterated that early treatment is necessary to have the best chance of avoiding hospitalization,” Christina Pushaw, secretary of the governor’s press. .

With more than 17,000 patients hospitalized statewide with COVID-19, health officials in Florida have been warning that hospitals are running out of space. According to federal data, less than 7% of intensive care unit beds are available statewide.

The site only opened on Tuesday, but city officials told ABC News that the volume of patients seeking treatment doubled on Wednesday.

To meet the new need, state and local officials are “providing three times as many wheelchairs, additional seats for those waiting in line, and signage that tells patients to alert someone if they need any assistance,” Nikki Kimbleton, city spokesman. he wrote in a statement Thursday.

Weesam Khoury, spokesman for the Florida Department of Health, along with Pushaw, insisted that monoclonal antibody sites in Florida “are not invaded” and that the state is “dedicated to providing resources to Floridians in need.”

“We are not overloaded, we continue to allocate resources. We have outpatient services, we have cots, we have wheelchairs,” Khoury said.

DeSantis and others have said that people seeking Regeneron should do so before their symptoms become severe.

Khoury said there are extremely ill patients at sites, yet the protocol suggests that if a patient is already at a point where they need hospital care, medical professionals at the site will refer them to outpatient services.

“If they are in that state that is identified as too advanced to benefit from monoclonal antibody treatment, and they need to go to the hospital, they will have to go to the hospital through the on-call outpatient service.” Koury explained, adding that the best way to protect yourself is still vaccination.

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