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Monoclonal antibody treatment can lessen the strain on Idaho hospitals

While St. Luke's officials said it's not a replacement for the vaccine, monoclonal antibodies can keep those who are infected with COVID-19 out of the hospital.

BOISE, Idaho — Hospitalizations are ICU capacity is at an all-time high in St Luke's Health System, according to Chief Medical Officer Dr. Frank Johnson.

As of Sept. 23, St. Luke's had 315 COVID-19 hospitalizations systemwide. That number was 30 in July, according to Johnson. This comes a week after the Idaho Department of Health and Welfare enacted statewide crisis standards of care.

"We're worse," Johnson bluntly said.

In an effort to keep people out of the hospital, St. Luke's has been offering monoclonal antibodies to those who are high risk. The treatment is not a replacement for the vaccine and is not a preventative measure.

The treatment only works if a patient has been infected with COVID-19 and then receives monoclonal antibodies shortly after, according to St. Luke's Primary Care Director Dr. Laura McGeorge.

"We know that people at the absolute highest risk are people who are obese, diabetic, third-trimester pregnancy, if they're severely immunocompromised,"  McGeorge explained.

McGeorge added that people who are mildly overweight or have high blood pressure could be considered high risk of hospitalization and therefore be eligible for the treatment.

However, there is a limited amount available. St. Luke's said the hospital depends on the federal government for supply and could potentially run out of antibodies.

"We have already have put in a system where we are prioritizing making decisions on patients based on who is likely to get the most benefit from the monoclonal antibodies and scheduling those patients first," McGeorge said.

For every 20 people who receive the treatment, St. Luke's has avoided roughly one hospitalization, according to McGeorge.

At KTVB, we’re focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus. To see our full coverage, visit our coronavirus section, here: www.ktvb.com/coronavirus.

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