Healthcare, Latest News, State Government

COVID numbers reach record highs; antibody treatments to be offered at more sites in 30 counties

MORGANTOWN – West Virginia’s COVID numbers have hit an all-time pandemic peak, Gov. Jim Justice said Friday. But no mandates are in the wing – he still urges vaccination.

“I’m going to continue to plead with you to do that,” he said. “I don’t know anything else to do.”

The one bit of good news from Friday’s briefing was that more people who need it will have access to monoclonal antibody treatment.

First, the numbers: 29,744 active cases with 2,320 new cases since Thursday; 922 hospitalized with 277 in ICUs and 169 on ventilators – all records. The state recorded 74 deaths since Wednesday, with the total at 3,370.

“And they’ll keep dying. That’s just all there is to it,” Justice said. Until we reach the point enough people have either been vaccinated or have developed some natural immunity from recovering from COVID.

Joint Interagency Task Force Director Gen. James Hoyer explained how more people will have access to antibody treatment.

Now, along with being available at hospitals, it will be provided at sites – pharmacies, health departments and health centers – in 30 counties, he said. The sites will also have additional testing capability so that a person with symptoms can go there, get tested and triaged, and get the antibody approximately 60-minute antibody infusion if it’s appropriate. The infusions will be free of charge at those sites.

They will work through the weekend and into next week to get everything set up, he said. Outlets will will sign up and medicine deliveries will go to them.

Although there are reports of some states having short supply, he said, to to date West Virginia had not exceeded its allocation and they are working with the federal Department of Health and Human Services to have more available.

Hoyer and others at the briefing said antibodies are not a replacement for vaccination.

As previously reported, monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that mimic the immune system’s ability to fight off harmful pathogens such as viruses. COVID-19 Czar Clay Marsh said Friday that the treatment binds up the virus before it gets to the human cell.

Antibodies are passive, in that they block the virus for a short term, Marsh and others said, while the vaccine is active: It stimulates and educates the immune system to fight the virus on its own, and for a longer period.

As previously reported, antibody treatment can lead to quicker recovery time for the patient, prevent serious illness and reduce hospitalizations. But it has to be used during the first 10 days of onset — the acute viral period. That’s when the virus is still replicating and infectious.

In other news, marsh reported that a federal advisory panel voted to recommend that the FDA reject vaccine booster shots for ages 17 and up. That effectively stalled the Biden administration plan to start allowing boosters on Monday.

The Hill reported that the same panel did unanimously recommend the Pfizer third shot for people age 65 and up who are six months out from their second dose, and for the immunocompromised.

He recommended everyone remember and try to practice five important points: stay together for the common good, get vaccinated, wear masks, get tested if you have symptoms and be thoughtful about going to the ER.

Marsh urged people to try to avoid taxing the hospital system by consulting primary care providers and urgent care centers for non-emergency treatment, “We are seeing a challenge to our hosp system in a way we haven’t seen before.” With about 82% of all COVID patients hospitalized being unvaccinated and 90% of those in ICUs being unvaccinated, hospitals are starting to have to ration care.

We still haven’t reached the peak of the Delta surge, he said, and when it does peak, it’ll be another two to four weeks before the strain on the hospital system peaks, and the peak in deaths will lag behind that.

TWEET David Beard @dbeardtdp EMAIL