JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Louie Lopez showed up to the downtown Jacksonville Main Library Conference Center in the early afternoon for a Regeneron therapy appointment. His primary care doctor recommended it after Lopez tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing moderate to severe symptoms.
While waiting in line for his turn, two other people got in the line behind Lopez. Both of them, he says, sat down on the floor immediately. They eventually laid down “sick and moaning.” Lopez, 59, told The Florida Times-Union, part of the USA TODAY Network, that the woman pictured in yellow was dragging herself on the floor as the line slowly moved forward.
Lopez took a photo and sent it to his wife.
The therapy treatment is for people in the early stages of COVID-19 and the makeshift clinic where Lopez took the photo is not meant to serve as a full-fledged hospital. But amid rising COVID infections and increased worry, some people in more advanced stages of COVID have opted to go to makeshift clinics instead of hospitals due to potentially long waits.
Workers at the site said the clinic is not for very sick patients; people in that category should go to a hospital.
The photo of Lopez' visit to the center on Wednesday quickly went viral on Reddit after his wife, Suzanne, posted it on the social media platform with a message: “Everyone please be careful - whether you are vaccinated or not. My husband (vaccinated, but positive) has been waiting 2+ hours for monoclonal therapy and he says he has never seen people so sick. Moaning, crying, unable to move.”
About 24 hours after she posted it, the photo had hundreds of comments and had already made the rounds on social media, with many questioning why there weren’t more places for people to sit or rest while they waited.
“There were only a couple of chairs in there...But then as the line started to progress, more people came in and that's when I realized that they were taking walk-ins at the same time as appointments and the people that were laying down, they were behind me and I was just watching them for a while and they were just sick and moaning,” Lopez said. “Part of me wondered why [staff] didn't just take them up to the front. And it was cold in there. They brought some of those paper coats and covered them up and then probably after about another half hour, they came and got wheelchairs and put them on wheelchairs.”
Lopez arrived for his noon appointment but didn’t finish his treatment and head home until around 3 p.m. He estimates the woman pictured in yellow was on the ground for about an hour. He says the staff was doing their best but it seemed like “everything was new.”
Jacksonville has first state-run Regeneron center
Gov. Ron DeSantis announced last week that Jacksonville would get the first state-run, city-supported Regeneron treatment center. The treatments, which have been used for months by doctors, inject monoclonal antibodies into people infected by the COVID-19 virus before they come down with serious symptoms that could lead to hospitalization and death.
The treatment is for people who have "either been diagnosed or exposed to someone with COVID-19, and are at high risk for progression to severe illness, hospitalization, or death," according to a city news release announcing the library site.
Nikki Kimbleton, director of public affairs for the city, said in a statement that the number of people seeking the treatment increased on Wednesday. On Tuesday, 97 doses of the treatment were administered. A day later, the number jumped to 143.
“JFRD and COJ are providing triple the number of wheelchairs, additional seating for those waiting in line and signage that directs patients to alert someone if they need any type of assistance,” the statement read.
Florida Coast News reported that a spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health said "when someone is at that level [pictured], they are moved" and taken to a hospital if needed.
Denise Miner and her mother got the treatment Thursday after testing positive. Miner was shocked by the photo, she told News4Jax.
She said some people are getting desperate, and like her, chose not to go to hospitals because of the potentially long waits.
“There’s not much room in the hospitals so people are having to try all kinds of things to try and help themselves,” Miner said.
Suzanne Lopez, Louie’s wife, told the Times-Union she didn’t expect her post to go beyond the Florida Covid subreddit.
“I put it out there as a 'hey everybody, be careful.' My husband is vaccinated and still is getting the monoclonal therapy and look how much worse it is for people who aren't vaccinated,” she said.
Lopez is feeling better since he first tested positive last week, and is only experiencing a mild headache and fatigue.
While the photo has garnered widespread attention, Lopez doesn’t think it captures the moment completely.
“They were very sick. I told somebody else that picture doesn't convey how much in pain they were because they were moaning,” Lopez said. “The poor woman in yellow could barely move. She needed help. I asked her at one point if she needed help. She said no, but she was just miserable.”
Katherine Lewin is the enterprise reporter at the Times-Union covering criminal and social justice issues in Northeast Florida. Email her at email@example.com or follow on Twitter @KatherineMLewin. Support local journalism!
This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: Viral Reddit photo of COVID patients on floor in Florida library