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Viral Photo Of Florida Woman On Floor Of Monoclonal Treatment Site Illustrates Huge Demand For COVID Antibody Drugs

JACKSONVILLE (CBSMiami/AP) -- A photograph of people laying down on the floor in pain while waiting for monoclonal antibody infusions at a Jacksonville treatment site is going viral for its vivid illustration of the huge demand for COVID-19 drugs.

"They were moaning and obviously in a lot of pain. They were miserable," said Louie Lopez, who shot the photograph as he waited for more than two hours to receive the treatment.

Toma Dean, the woman in the photo in the yellow dress said she'd been suffering with COVID and pneumonia for two weeks and that she'd been in and out of emergency rooms. In the photo, another sick woman laying down right behind her.

One day after the picture was taken, the Florida woman said when her 16-year-old son took her to the library for treatment on Wednesday, she could barely stand.

"I was bad. Very bad shape. Lightheaded. Dizzy. Shortness of breath," she said. "I couldn't stand at all."

Dean said she had just left the hospital, where an emergency room doctor advised her to get the monoclonal antibody treatment. With her son by her side and not a wheelchair in sight, Dean said she first sat, then laid on the floor.

Virus Outbreak Florida
In this photo provided by Louie Lopez, sick people lie on the floor in a medical facility in Jacksonville, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021. Lopez took the photo while waiting more than 2.5 hours to get antibody treatment at a facility run by the state. While he waited, he watched the room fill up with extremely sick patients. (Louie Lopez via AP)

"I was so sick it didn't even matter," Dean said. "I just thought I could roll. I just wanted to get to therapy because I thought I'm either going to die -- be hospitalized, die, or I'm going to make it through those doors."

Dean said the staff at the library was excellent, and they scrambled to get wheelchairs to the library. The treatment itself was quick, and Dean said she felt better already.

She said she was not vaccinated for COVID due to an underlying health condition that prevented it.

"If you have it, I advise you to go get this therapy, go take advantage of the resources out there. Get vaccinated. It may not be the first thing that you want to do, but it's better than the end result," Dean said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said during a news conference Friday that the woman in the photo is fine and feeling great after the treatment.

"None of our sites are having a capacity issue," said Weesam Khoury, spokesperson for the Florida Department of Health. "We have the resources and if we need more we can quickly get them."

But she cautioned, "This is a site where people are going to be very ill."

That's why state health officials are urging patients who test positive for COVID to get the antibody treatment immediately instead of waiting until they are extremely sick, which many patients are doing.

Florida over the past week has set up about a dozen monoclonal antibody clinics typically serving 300 patients per day including a location at C.B. Smith Park in Pembroke Pines and a location opening on Saturday at Tropical Park in Southwest Miami-Dade.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said he plans to have at least 21 locations open by next week. There is an online portal for appointments.

Monoclonal antibodies can lessen the worst effects of COVID-19. The antibody treatments have risen in demand in several states, including Florida, where officials have refused to impose mask mandates and health care workers are struggling to curb hospitalizations among the unvaccinated.

After the picture of Dean went viral, changes were made at the treatment center. The city added more wheelchairs, seating, and more ways for patients to alert someone if they need help. Workers at the site say you feel too sick, you need to go to the hospital.

The treatment is for people in the early stages of COVID-19 with mild-to-moderate symptoms.

The main drug in use is Regeneron's dual-antibody cocktail, which has been purchased in mass quantities by the U.S. government.

The drugs are laboratory-made versions of virus-blocking antibodies that help fight off infections.

The drugs are only recommended for people at the highest risk of progressing to severe COVID-19, but regulators have slowly broadened who can qualify. The list of conditions now includes older age, obesity, diabetes, heart disease, pregnancy and more than a half-dozen other issues.

Getting the drugs involves several steps.

A positive test for COVID-19 is required, which must be reviewed by a physician or health professional. They then decide whether to recommend an antibody treatment for the patient, which usually means scheduling an appointment at a local administration site.

To be effective, the drugs are supposed to be given within 10 days of initial symptoms. That's the timeframe in which they have been shown to cut rates of hospitalization and death by roughly 70%.

Medical experts agreed that the drugs should not be seen as the first line of defense against the virus or a substitute for wearing a mask and getting vaccinated.

The treatments are free.

(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press and WJXT via CNN contributed to this report.)


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