The former Naples Beach Hotel and Golf Club will serve as a monoclonal antibody clinic in Collier County for people infected with COVID-19 to get the treatment.
The site officially opens Friday by appointment only. That's more than two weeks after Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Naples on Jan. 4 and said a clinic could be opened in 24 hours once the federal government releases more supply to the state.
Later that same day, he announced the federal government was bowing to pressure from Florida to release more supply, but offered no written correspondence validating the claim.
There has not been a monoclonal antibody clinic open in Collier for the public to get the treatment without a doctor’s order since a state-run clinic closed Oct. 8 in Immokalee due to low demand.
The Naples site will have the monoclonal antibody treatment made by Regeneron, according to Kristine Hollingsworth, spokeswoman for the state health department in Collier. She did not know how many doses will be available.
Regeneron Pharmaceuticals acknowledged last month that its current therapy is less effective against the omicron variant and is developing new antibodies to better target the virus stain.
The clinic will be at the hotel conference center building on the east side of Gulf Shore Boulevard across the street from the vacated hotel that will be demolished for redevelopment by The Athens Group. The address is 852 Gulf Shore Blvd. N.
Jay Newman, The Athens Group's chief operating officer, said the state Department of Health in Collier and the county's Emergency Management Division reached out about the use of the former hotel's conference center, following a request from the governor's office to find a suitable site.
"As the request specifically came from Governor DeSantis and Collier County, it was our civic responsibility to honor their request in order to act in the best interest of community public health," he said. "We are able to help meet this critical community need by allowing the use of our conference center, which was readily available and has ample parking, with minimal disruption, if any, to the neighborhood."
DeSantis, who faces re-election in November and is gaining popularity as a presidential candidate in 2024, has talked for weeks about how Florida has been a leader in the use of the monoclonal antibody therapy to reduce severe illness and hospitalizations.
DeSantis believes the new site in Naples "will help more patients in Southwest Florida make a full, swift recovery from COVID-19," spokeswoman Christina Pushaw said in an email
"Floridians can get monoclonal antibody treatments free of charge, and there is no need for a prescription or referral at the state-supported treatment sites," she said.
Florida received a shipment Jan. 7 of 15,000 doses of the Regeneron therapy and 11 days later the state announced clinics were opening Jan. 18 in Broward, Duval, Miami-Dade, Palm Beach, and Seminole counties.
Meanwhile, Southwest Florida and the state set new weekly records for new COVID-19 cases.
State data shows Lee had 12,846 new cases as of Jan. 7, a 21% jump from the week before, and Collier was up 5,392 cases, a 10% increase from the week before. Florida also set a record for cases for the third week in a row with 430,297 reported, an 8% increase from last week’s 397,114 cases.
A monoclonal antibody treatment site operates by appointment only at the old Bonita Springs Library in Bonita Springs. The Bonita Springs location is operated by a private contractor and appointments can be made by going to patientportalfl.com.
Hospitals in Southwest Florida have had little supply of the treatment, which they get from the state.
Lee Health, the publicly operated hospital system in Lee County, received two dozen doses a week ago and the NCH Healthcare System in Collier received 50 to 75 doses late Friday, according to hospital officials. NCH requires a doctor's order.
"We'd like to have a lot more," said Paul Hiltz, president and chief executive officer of NCH.
Lee Health was treating 340 patients with COVID-19 on Thursday, while NCH reported 165 patients with the virus.
Dan Summers, Collier's emergency services director, began looking earlier this month for vacant commercial property in central Naples aiming for a 90-day lease. An earlier consideration was the Neighborhood Health Clinic near downtown Naples.
Allowing the use of a ballroom in the former conference center across the street from the hotel is requiring "no significant investment" from The Athens Group, Newman said.
"We are not receiving any compensation for the use of our conference center," he added.
As word has spread to the neighborhood about the clinic site at the conference center, Newman said reaction has been overwhelmingly positive "other than one neighbor who lives far from the conference center."
Equipment and personnel for the treatment center began arriving earlier this week.
State contractors will administer the treatment under the supervision of the state, Newman said.
The site will be open Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and appointments can be made by going to floridahealthcovid19.gov and clicking on MAB appointment. A phone number to call is 239-367-3223.
This article originally appeared on Naples Daily News: Collier County getting new COVID monoclonal antibody treatment site