Florida Gov. DeSantis deploys COVID-19 antibody 'rapid response unit'

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis mobilized a “rapid response unit” this week to administer monoclonal antibody treatments to state residents infected with COVID-19. 

The rapid response unit is based in Jacksonville. Additionally, DeSantis is deploying “strike teams” to administer treatments to vulnerable populations at the state’s long-term care facilities. 

“This is the most effective treatment that we’ve yet encountered for people who are infected with Covid-19,” DeSantis said at a press conference Thursday. “This, applied early and properly, has the ability to reduce your likelihood of being hospitalized.”

State officials are exploring the possibility of adding a second location in the city and in locations throughout the state. DeSantis’ office said the strategy was aimed at “alleviating demand on hospital resources and further making sure that Floridians have access to all potential treatments that can help them recover from COVID-19.”

DeSantis announced the initiative as Florida contends with a surge in COVID-19 cases due to the delta variant. On Friday, the state reported 151,415 new COVID-19 from Aug. 6 through Aug. 12, its highest number over a 7-day period at any point during the pandemic.

The governor touted the effectiveness of antibody treatments for reducing severe symptoms, adding its use should increase alongside efforts to promote vaccinations.

“I don’t think it’s an either or,” DeSantis said. “We have people in society that are not vaccinated. We also have people who are vaccinated who are still testing positive. Either way, if you get in that situation, particularly in these high-risk categories, this should be your stop.”

Florida’s response to the pandemic has been a point of contention with the White House in recent days. DeSantis and President Biden have engaged in a public war of words over the Florida governor’s decision to ban mask mandates in the state.

Monoclonal antibodies are a lab-made version of convalescent plasma that can be administrated intravenously or by injection. The drug is manufactured by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and was notably used to treat former President Donald Trump when he tested positive for COVID-19 last year.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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