As observed from a safe distance by a New Times reporter outside the state-run clinic, the elderly woman was standing in line waiting for her turn to be treated with an intravenous antibody cocktail manufactured by the biotech company Regeneron. It's available for anyone 12 years and older who has tested positive for COVID-19 and is considered to be at high risk of hospitalization and death.
With the addition of the monoclonal-antibody clinic, Tropical Park is now a three-in-one stop that offers COVID-19 testing, vaccinations, and, now, treatment. On Wednesday, there was no wait for vaccines or tests but a two-hour wait for the Regeneron clinic. Patients were told to wait in their cars for treatment.
“It hurts to breathe,” one woman in line for the treatment at Tropical Park told News10. “It hurts to talk. My head feels like it is going to explode. My body is numb. Everything hurts.”
The Tropical Park clinic is one of 17 new Regeneron clinics opened across the state, as Florida reported 26,203 more COVID cases on Wednesday — breaking the state record for single-day cases since the pandemic began 17 months ago. So far, Florida has reported more than 3 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and more than 42,000 deaths.
TCPalm reports that Gov. Ron DeSantis opened half the monoclonal-antibody treatment sites in counties where a majority of registered voters are Democrats, including Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties.
The Tropical Park clinic is the only monoclonal antibody treatment site in Miami-Dade.
Residents who've tested positive for the virus now have the chance to receive the free-of-charge antibody cocktail, which comprises two drugs, casirivimab and imdevimab, that are administered through an IV. You can make an appointment here if you plan on seeking treatment. The site is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
The drugs work in tandem to target the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and are "designed to block the virus’ attachment and entry" into other cells, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It's important to note that the treatment should be sought as soon as possible after a person is determined to have contracted the novel coronavirus.
The FDA granted emergency-use authorization for the monoclonal antibody treatment last November. Public health officials also continue to stress that the treatment protocol is not a substitute for the vaccines, which have been proven to dramatically decrease the chances of winding up severely ill or dying should a person contract COVID-19.
In a statement announcing the opening of the clinic, the Florida Department of Health says treatment must be administered before severe illness has set in and that high-risk individuals should find treatment as soon as they receive a positive diagnosis. It's intended to be used within ten days of the first appearance of symptoms.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the president's chief medical advisor and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, touted the "very effective" treatment during a White House press briefing on August 24 and said the IV cocktail, if taken early enough, "can reduce the risk of COVID-19 hospitalization or death by 70 to 85 percent."
Added Fauci: "It is important to emphasize that this must be done early in infection and not wait, of course, until a person is sick enough to be hospitalized," Fauci says. "We want people out there, including physicians, as well as potential patients, to realize the advantage of this very effective way of treating early infection."
Earlier this month, photos captured at a monoclonal treatment site in Jacksonville showing two sick women — there to seek treatment after testing positive for COVID-19 — withering on the floor were widely shared across social media.
About 24 hours after Louie Lopez's wife posted it, the photo had hundreds of comments and had already made the rounds on social media, with many questioning why there weren’t more places for people to sit or rest while they waited. https://t.co/EBPnrOGqQf— Florida Times-Union (@jaxdotcom) August 20, 2021
Louie Lopez, who captured the photo and whose wife posted it on Reddit, told the Florida Times-Union that one of the women was so sick, she was dragging herself on the floor as the line advanced.
“They were very sick.... [T]hat picture doesn't convey how much in pain they were because they were moaning,” Lopez told the newspaper.
One of the women could barely move.
"She needed help," he said, according to the Times-Union. "I asked her at one point if she needed help. She said no, but she was just miserable.”
Miami-Dade County's monoclonal antibody clinic is located in Tropical Park, at 7900 SW 40th St. in Miami. There is also a clinic in Broward County, at C.B. Smith Park, 900 N. Flamingo Rd., Pembroke Pines. The hours are the same at both clinics — daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. — and appointments may be made online.