Members of the Tennessee National Guard arrived in Hamilton County on Wednesday to assist with CHI Memorial Health System's monoclonal antibody injection clinic, which recently expanded its capacity to treat up to 50 outpatients a day.
Monoclonal antibody treatments, such as Regeneron — which rose to fame when former President Donald Trump received the drug after he was diagnosed with COVID-19 in early October — are laboratory-made proteins that work by mimicking the antibodies that target the coronavirus to potentially help speed recovery from COVID-19.
The treatment is used to treat mild or moderate COVID-19 in both adults and children age 12 and up at high risk of hospitalization or death because of the disease and must be given less than 10 days after symptom onset, according to the Tennessee Department of Health's website.
Individuals with chronic diseases, including obesity, diabetes and heart disease, may be good candidates for the treatment.
CHI Memorial officials said in a news release that nine guardsmen and women will provide administrative and clinical support in the clinic for at least two weeks.
"[The guardsmen] are helping more than people with COVID. Because of their presence, we have nurses and staff who can go back to caring for cancer and heart patients. The guardsmen are impacting many more lives than they realize," Deb Moore, administrator of CHI Memorial Hospital Hixson, said in the news release. "We are so excited they are here and are grateful for their service to our hospital, staff and patients, and our community."
CHI Memorial spokesperson Karen Long said that the medicine is free for patients but the health system will bill insurance for the cost of administration.
The goal of monoclonal antibodies is to lessen the severity of symptoms and help prevent hospitalizations, which is especially important as local hospitals grapple with an unprecedented surge of COVID-19 patients.
COVID-19 hospitalizations in Hamilton County remain at record-high levels, and the death toll from the latest surge continues to grow each day.
On Wednesday, the Hamilton County Health Department reported the third-highest new positive case count for COVID-19 in the county since the start of the pandemic, with a total of 625 new cases. There were also 336 patients hospitalized with the disease in the county and six new local resident deaths, according to data from the health department.
CHI Memorial is currently the only Chattanooga hospital administering monoclonal antibodies on an outpatient basis, but other clinics in Hamilton County and across Southeast Tennessee are offering the treatment as well.
People who test positive for COVID-19 can search for monoclonal antibodies sites on the Tennessee Department of Health website, which also includes more information about the therapy.
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