ENGLEWOOD - A free monoclonal antibody treatment site will open Tuesday in Englewood, Gov. Ron DeSantis announced at a news conference Monday.
"When this center opens, we will see a decline in hospital admissions," DeSantis said during a news conference at Tringali Park's Community Center, where the site will be located.
He said the center, which will be open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., is open to those who test positive.
The center had handle 320 patients a day.
"They just simply make an appointment," he said.
With DeSantis was Dr. Kenneth Scheppke, chief medical officer of the Florida Department of Emergency Management.
"The vaccine takes six weeks, but the monoclonal treatment works today — it targets the virus that attacks your system," Scheppke said.
Joe Pepe, director of the Charlotte County Department of Health, said the treatment is also available at the Bayfront Health Punta Gorda and Port Charlotte hospitals, and at Fawcett Memorial Hospital.
He said the local health department still urges people to practice social distancing and good hygiene including frequent hand-washing, wear face coverings, and get the COVID-19 vaccine.
But in the event someone contracts the virus, now they can make an appointment online or by calling the health department.
DeSantis said the free treatment will aid those most vulnerable to the virus — people over 50 and younger people with underlying health conditions such as obesity, diabetes and kidney disease.
He said the Englewood location was chosen to serve southern Sarasota County, Charlotte County, Cape Coral and North Fort Myers.
In the past the treatment was done by infusion, but now that Regeneron — the monoclonal cocktail of drugs made by Eli Lilly & Co. — is done by subcutaneous injection, treatment time has been reduced considerably, allowing for more patients to be treated each day, DeSantis said.
He said there will be more than 20 Regeneron sites in Florida now.
"Over 90% (of COVID hospitalizations) this summer did not get the monoclonal treatment and it is my belief many would have been kept out of the hospital," said DeSantis, estimating the treatment could reduce hospitalizations by 70%.
He said this is "one of the tools we have to help people who become infected."
To make an appointment, visit www.charlotte.floridahealth.gov or call 941-624-7200.