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Gov. Abbott says COVID-19 antibody therapy drug to become available for eligible Texans

No state shutdown is coming. The Texas governor encouraged Texans to double-down on health and safety protocols.

Updated at 3:53 p.m. with statements from state officials. 

The first approved medical treatment for COVID-19 will begin rolling out to Texans who qualify for it, starting with Lubbock, Gov. Greg Abbott announced Thursday. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized the emergency use of bamlanivimab, created by Eli Lilly and Company, for people with the novel coronavirus who are not hospitalized.

The experimental antibody treatment is best used for people in the early stages of COVID-19, Abbott said during a Thursday afternoon news conference.

Abbott reiterated that no state shutdown is coming and encouraged Texans to double-down on health and safety protocols that helped after the surge in cases this summer.

“If we do that, we will get through this episode like we did in July and in August,” Abbott said.

The governor said he hopes the antibody treatment will help reduce the number of COVID-19 patients at hospitals. 

The treatment is authorized for patients over 12 years old who are at risk of developing a severe case of COVID-19.

Health officials have said the treatment has been effective in preventing hospitalizations for patients who take it before becoming severely ill with the disease.

Bamlanivimab is not authorized for use in patients:

  • who are hospitalized due to COVID-19, OR

  • who require oxygen therapy due to COVID-19, OR

  • who require an increase in baseline oxygen flow rate due to COVID-19 in those on chronic oxygen therapy due to underlying non-COVID-19 related comorbidity.

The treatment is administered through an IV, which takes about an hour.

State officials said the drug will be distributed based on the number of new cases of COVID-19 in an area, new hospital admissions of patients with the coronavirus and total hospitalized patients confirmed to have COVID-19. 

Statewide hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients have been increasing in recent weeks.

Abbott said a statewide shutdown would be ineffective and there are consequences medically, emotionally, mentally and financially for citizens.

Local officials have said they felt that more needed to be done at the local level, but Abbott’s executive order was restrictive.

“With regard to local authorities, there are plenty of tools to use,” Abbott said. “Some local officials are not using the tools available to them.”

He said if the mandates were followed and enforced, that would lead to a decline in the spread of COVID-19.

Vaccine options

The state is anticipating more treatments in December, Abbott said, as well as two approved vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna. Abbott said the state is prepared structurally to distribute the vaccines, once they are approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

“This is a marathon and we’re not at the finish line yet,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services. “Until we get to the point when vaccines are widely available, we have to stick to the basics of prevention.”

The state has given Lubbock thousands of extra medical workers and extra personal protection equipment to help with the surge in hospitalizations, Abbott said.

This week, Tarrant County health officials issued a "public health warning" due to a high number of coronavirus hospitalizations in the community. 

Officials said the county's ICU beds are 92% full. 

Office of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd said just because treatments will start being more available, doesn’t mean to stop with social distancing, mask-wearing and hand sanitizing.

“Just because you have a seatbelt in your car doesn’t mean you should drive reckless,” Kidd said.

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