Free COVID-19 treatment clinics helping keep patients out of hospital

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SAN DIEGO — Four San Diego County treatment centers have been busier lately as more residents test positive for COVID-19 and sick people try to avoid a more serious bout with the illness.

The sites are called Monoclonal Antibody Regional Centers and they’re used to treat people with COVID who are at higher risk for a severe case. That includes people over 65, those with diabetes, kidney disease or high blood pressure, and those who are obese.

“Amazing results are keeping people out of the hospital, giving them that immune system boost they need,” said Dr. Christian Ramers, an infectious disease specialist with Family Health Centers of San Diego.

The treatment uses monoclonal antibodies — which are proteins made in a lab – that help boost the immune system to attack the virus. Dr. Ramers says the key is to act fast.

“They have to get the treatment early. This really only works if its within the first ten days of symptoms. So that means people need to get tested early and get in touch with us as soon as they can,” the doctor explained.

It’s a one-hour infusion, followed by a one-hour observation period — and it’s free.

As cases dipped in May and June, so did demand for the treatment. But now its picking back up, as the county sees a “significant spike” in cases. The county reported 1,264 new coronavirus cases Friday afternoon, the highest number on a single day since Feb. 5.

“We are actually quite busy. In fact, we’re scheduling out about two to three days at this point. We’re essentially reaching our capacity, which is a good thing. It’s an incredibly effective therapy,” Ramers said.

Dr. Ramers says the therapy delivers a 75-85% reduction in the risk of hospitalization. And those who are already vaccinated but still have symptoms can still get the treatment.

“We’re not using this for asymptomatic people at this point. And we know from in-vitro lab experiments, the combination we’re using, the Regeneron cocktail — is still very active against the delta variant. So it should work just fine,” Ramers explained.

More information can be found on the county’s website.

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