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- American politician
- 46th and current president of the United States
Jacksonville will be able to open additional monoclonal antibody treatment sites for COVID-19 if the state gets an additional 30,000 doses it is requesting from the federal government, Gov. Ron DeSantis said.
Tuesday's announcement of added antibody treatment availability statewide, which the governor had called on the Biden administration to release on Monday, was delayed over an hour by a community protest where the original briefing was scheduled at the Duval County Health Department.
That included police officers leading Northside Coalition of Jacksonville head Ben Frazier away in handcuffs, cited with trespassing after warnings but not arrested, the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office said.
The news briefing was moved to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement building nearby, where DeSantis said he had "no idea" what happened at the protest.
Following comments saying President Joe Biden's allocation system for the Regeneron and Eli Lilly monoclonal antibody treatments was shortchanging Florida, DeSantis said Jacksonville officials asked for the state's help in expanding them. That came after centers that offered it began cutting back in recent weeks.
DeSantis announced it will only take a day to open a new Jacksonville site if the president sends more doses to Florida, as he has urged the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to do. Saying the department is not supplying enough doses to meet the state's demand, he said other sites will also open in the three South Florida counties that have the highest numbers when more arrives.
The governor said federal officials "don't believe" in the treatment, which is one possible reason why more access hasn't been allocated to Florida.
"We want the treatments. We are here to help all across the state," DeSantis said. "... If the federal government is taking control of this, why didn't they ensure that there would be plentiful supplies of this to be able to keep people from being hospitalized because of COVID? Why were they asleep at the switch on that?"
The Health and Human Services Department announced on Dec. 23 it would pause shipments of Regeneron and Eli Lilly COVID-19 treatments after the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they were likely ineffective against the latest virus variant, omicron. But on Thursday, the HHS reversed course, acknowledging that the delta variant still accounts for a sizable share of infections in some parts of the country.
At odds with the current federal government
Florida Surgeon General Joseph Ladapo said the state needs at least 30,000 more doses per week than it is receiving through the federal allocation system to expand capacity at existing treatment sites and open new ones to treat 250 to 300 patients per day at each. At least the new omicron variant of the virus is less virulent, if more transmissible, he said.
Jacksonville opened its first monoclonal antibody site in August at the Main Library, relocating it last month to the Joseph Lee Center at 5120 Perry St.
DeSantis said the "vast majority" of people who get the antibody treatments have been vaccinated, pointing to Miami-Dade County's numbers that show "it is always, two-, three- or four-to-one vaxxed to un-vaxxed," he said.
"We are not seeing vaccinations stop the spread of omicron," DeSantis said.
Monoclonal antibodies are made in a laboratory and are given to patients directly through an infusion. When administered promptly, they make it more difficult for the virus to reproduce and cause harm, according to a Palm Beach Post story.
Studies have shown that two of the three approved drugs for coronavirus antibody treatment — including the ones DeSantis wants — do little to counter the effects of the omicron variant. The third approved treatment, manufactured by the London-based pharmaceutical giant GlaxoKlineSmith, is effective but is in short supply, the Post reported.
But since the beginning of nationwide vaccine rollouts, doctors and scientists have emphasized that although the virus can infect inoculated people, they offer the best protection from severe illness.
Then DeSantis repeated his concerns about "heavy-handed policies" from the federal government that once suggested people had to be vaccinated in order to be allowed to hold certain jobs. Clearly, he said, those did not work.
He also said federal policies that included mask mandates have "been a disaster." The fact that Florida decided to approach COVID-19 restrictions differently, banning mask mandates and other restrictions, should not be a basis to deny treatment to Floridians who may need it, DeSantis said.
Disrupted venue, differing viewpoints
The governor's news conference was delayed after five people demanded to speak with him in the original room where it was to be held.
Frazier decried DeSantis' stance on COVID-19 measures, saying he had been "asleep at the wheel" in recent weeks as the numbers of people infected and hospitalized had risen.
He noted they were in a public building and they had a right to be there. But state staff said it was not open to the public and was for credentialed media only.
If they did not leave, the protesters were told they would be charged with trespassing. Then members of the governor's staff tried to set up a later meeting with protesters, but they refused to leave.
Frazier was put in handcuffs and escorted out, with his motorized wheelchair brought behind him by officers. Taken to a police cruiser, he demanded to know why he was being arrested as protesters yelled, "Shame, shame." He received a notice to appear later before a judge on the trespassing citation and was released, the Sheriff's Office said.
COVID-19 vaccine: In Jacksonville, here's where you can get a shot
This was DeSantis' second news conference this year. Prior to that, his last public appearance was on Dec. 17 to address his administration's plan to fight the virus. In the week leading up to that day, Florida added an average of about 5,300 new infections. In the past seven days, the number of new infections have skyrocketed to nearly 52,000, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows.
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This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: DeSantis touts monoclonal treatment sites during Jacksonville briefing