JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida is ready to open additional monoclonal antibody treatment sites, including another site in Jacksonville. Gov. Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that plans have begun to send 30,000 more monoclonal antibody doses to Florida.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services had paused the shipments of the two main treatments made by Regeneron and Eli Lilly after some evidence suggested the treatments are ineffective against the omicron variant, which is fueling a surge in cases locally and across the country.
At a news conference, DeSantis said that HHS reversed that decision over the weekend and is now releasing the Regeneron and Eli Lilly treatments, as well as a third treatment by Sotrovimab, which has been found to be more effective against omicron.
“So we laid out yesterday a request to get an additional 30,000 doses to the state of Florida. We would have sites up immediately, additional sites in the three South Florida counties that have the highest prevalence, we’d have one here in Jacksonville, Central Florida, other parts of the Tampa Bay area, Southwest Florida, we’d be able to do that very quickly. We’re ready, we’re prepared, but they’re not sending us the doses,” DeSantis said. “And so we just got the announcement from HHS, and Florida was allocated less than 12,000 doses. And to put that in perspective, we were doing 4,500 a day at the summer peak in August.”
Last week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it estimated that omicron accounted for nearly 60% of new cases in the U.S. the previous week, but DeSantis pointed out that the state is still seeing cases of the delta variant — the other dominant strain.
“We want to make sure we’re doing all that we can to be able to help those,” he said.
The COVID-19 antibody treatment site already set up in Jacksonville had to reduce the number of appointments after changing how it administers antibody treatments, a city spokesperson told News4JAX last week.
The governor said Florida is prepared to open the additional state-run monoclonal antibody treatment sites within 24 to 48 hours after the state receives more doses of the treatment.
DeSantis also said Tuesday that the state will be sending out some at-home tests, starting with a focus on the elderly population.
“The federal government is not following through on its promise to do at-home tests. We are going to be doing that, starting with the focus on the elderly population,” DeSantis said. “We’ve sourced 1,500 requests across the state — including some to Jacksonville — over the last six months, and as more supply come in, we’ll do it.”
President Joe Biden announced last month that the federal government is buying half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distributing them free of charge to people to use at home. The first delivery is expected in early January, but all 500 million kits will not arrive at the same time and instead will be delivered in batches.
DeSantis said he believes the testing needs to be focused on the people that have clinical symptoms.
“If your policy is force testing to travel, the CDC saying you have to get a negative test may be to go back to work, we won’t follow that in Florida,” he said “A lot of those tests are not a good use of testing.”
DeSantis’ news conference Tuesday was delayed and moved from one building to another at state offices on North Davis Street after community members upset over the governor’s handling of the pandemic and other issues refused to leave the area where the governor was set to speak. Community activist Ben Frazier ended up in a tense exchange with the governor’s staff and was eventually put in handcuffs, led from the building and placed in a marked police car.