TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — New monoclonal antibody treatment sites are opening in Tampa Bay to help treat COVID-19 patients.
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced the first state-run sites in Tampa Bay on Thursday – one in Hillsborough County and another in Pasco. A third is also coming to Tropicana Field in Pinellas County, according to the Tampa Bay Rays.
The new treatment site in Hillsborough County is at Kings Forest Park at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa, located at 8008 East Chelsea Street.
The Pasco County site is set up at the Fasano Center, located at 11611 Denton Avenue in Hudson.
Both sites will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week and have the capacity to treat more than 300 patients a day, according to the governor’s office.
The Tampa Bay Rays later announced Tropicana Field would become a treatment site as well. An opening date and operating hours have not yet been announced.
“We are working with the Governor’s Office, Department of Health and Department of Emergency Management to establish the logistics, protocol and procedures necessary to host this important therapy,” a team spokesperson said in a statement.
To find locations to receive monoclonal antibody treatments, you can visit floridahealthcovid19.gov. To make an appointment at a state site, visit this patient portal. To find other monoclonal antibody sites, visit the National Infusion Center Association’s website.
DeSantis has been traveling across the state the past few weeks to spread the word about the treatment and announce the openings of state sites to provide more access to Florida COVID patients.
“The sooner you get a monoclonal antibody treatment, the more effective it will be at keeping you out of the hospital and saving your life,” DeSantis said in a statement. “Today, we opened additional antibody treatment sites to support Florida hospitals and provide access to critical, early intervention for Floridians. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with COVID-19, these sites are a great resource to access this therapy.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, one of the Democrats hoping to challenge DeSantis in next year’s gubernatorial race, announced her approval for the Tampa site earlier Thursday. According to a news release from her office, Fried granted permission for the treatment site at the Florida State Fairground because the fairgrounds is operated by the Florida State Fair Authority and is, by state law, under the Commissioner of Agriculture’s supervision.
“To be explicitly clear: vaccines remain the absolute number-one way to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death from the virus – proven by science and backed by the medical community,” Fried said in a statement. “For those who unfortunately test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy may help reduce symptoms when treated early, so we’re pleased to make the Florida State Fairgrounds available for those needing this treatment.”
What is monoclonal antibody treatment?
Monoclonal antibodies are lab-produced molecules that act as substitute antibodies that can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system’s attack on cells, according to the U.S. FDA.
The governor held a news conference with Tampa General Hospital at the beginning of the month, before state sites opened, to discuss the efficacy of the treatment. TGH became the first Florida hospital to provide the treatment to a COVID patient in November.
Gov. DeSantis has been touring Florida with other state and health officials to promote the effectiveness of the antibody treatment, which he points out is free. He has also said at previous events, like one in Orlando earlier this week, that vaccines and the antibody treatment are not mutually exclusive.
“Do both, but just understand, people who are vaccinated are still testing positive,” he said. “People who are very high risk, the vaccine is reducing their exposure to serious illness but [monoclonal antibody treatment] is still something we want them to know. If you do it, talk to your doctor. Maybe you still want to do this.”