JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Nine days after Toma Dean became infected with the coronavirus, she was starting to become desperate. Her oxygen levels were dropping, she had pneumonia and she wasn’t able to get the treatment she needed in the emergency room.
“I didn’t think I would make it through,” Toma said Monday. “I was headed for an ICU bed.”
Then her mother told her about a newly opened antibody treatment at the downtown Jacksonville library, so Toma showed up, still fighting a 105-degree fever.
Feeling weak while waiting to be seen, Toma laid on the carpeted floor of the library and someone nearby snapped a photo. The photo then went viral, illustrating the toll the sometimes deadly virus was taking in Northeast Florida.
Appearing at a news conference with Gov. Ron DeSantis on Monday, the mother of two said the monoclonal antibody treatment she eventually received helped save her life.
“If you look at that photo, and you think you’re half that sick, get up today and go to a Regeneron site. Please. You need the treatment. It will save your life,” Toma said.
Toma was invited to appear with DeSantis and Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry to promote the free Regeneron monoclonal antibody treatment as a way to save lives and reduce hospitalizations in the state as the delta variant surges.
“We can see a correlation in the decline in hospitalizations, from the time these treatments became widely available to the public,” Curry said. “It’s saving lives it’s we’ve always said, it’s about protecting our health systems, it’s working it’s doing just that.”
News4Jax has been tracking hospitalizations since they first began to spike in July and they have been steadily falling over the last two weeks. The Jacksonville monoclonal site opened 13 days ago.
DeSantis said the state now has 21 antibody treatment sites across the state and around 30,000 patients have been treated.
Jacksonville was home of the first state-backed monoclonal antibody treatment site at it has treated more than 2,800 people since it opened and is averaging just under 300 people a day over the last five days.
“The results have been positive, but we’re not even close to where we need to be. So we’re going to keep it going,” DeSantis said.
Toma said she is still recovering.
“My voice is still hot back. Lately, I still have a little bit of shortness of breath, but I can get up, I can take a shower. I can walk, I can do those things. I hope that I help somebody out there today,” Toma said.
Toma told News4Jax she was not vaccinated when she got sick but now plans to get the shot once she is able.
To make an appointment at one of the antibody sites visit patientportalfl.com. No prescription or doctor referral is required.
No prescription or referral is required for state of Florida antibody sites.