Mayo Clinic Jacksonville CEO hopeful that COVID surge could be turning corner

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis made his second visit to Jacksonville this week, where he announced the increased availability of an emergency treatment option called monoclonal antibodies.

Dr. Kent Thielen, CEO of Mayo Clinic Jacksonville, speaks highly of the treatment.

“It’s an excellent therapy. It is something that since it first became available in November of 2020 we’ve been very strong advocates for as an organization nationally as well as here in Northeast Florida in the Jacksonville area,” Thielen said. “We’ve had a clinic that’s open on a daily basis to [treat] patients with monoclonal antibodies.”

Earlier in the week, DeSantis said while visiting Jacksonville that he’d been given information that suggests the area may have seen its summer peak.

“The seven-day average for Duval County has decreased 18% since July 31. The emergency room visits for Duval County for COVID-like illness over the past week have decreased by 14%,” DeSantis said Tuesday. “We are happy with seeing those trends and we think they will likely continue.”

RELATED: Has Jacksonville seen its peak of COVID-19 cases?

CDC data shows Florida reported a record 24,753 cases Wednesday, but Thielen agrees with DeSantis that the surge could be turning a corner.

“What I can say is, while we still are at a very high level -- nearly twice the level of where we were in January of 2020 -- we have seen a plateauing over the last probably seven to 10 days,” Thielen said. “And actually over the last few days, we’re seeing perhaps some indicators -- you never know with a virus like this -- but perhaps some indicators that we’re actually seeing a decline in the total number of patients, so we’ve actually had about 5% less patients hospitalized in our hospital with COVID now compared to a week ago.”

With regard to the monoclonal antibody therapy, Thielen says the treatment has to come early in the fight against coronavirus. He said it’s usually best for patients with underlying health concerns.

“It does significantly reduce the chances of those patients going on to need to be hospitalized,” he said. “It also can reduce the length of their disease severity, and so we think it’s an outstanding therapy. We’ve done over 1,100 patients here since November of 2020, and we have the capacity to treat over 200 patients a week.”

Thielen confirmed Mayo Clinic has brought in more ventilators during the surge, but he says they’re in a “very good” position right now from a resource standpoint.

About the Author:

Kent Justice co-anchors News4Jax's 5 p.m., 10 and 11 p.m. newscasts weeknights and reports on government and politics. He also hosts "This Week in Jacksonville," Channel 4's hot topics and politics public affairs show each Sunday morning at 9 a.m.