Monoclonal antibody treatment sites open in Tampa, Hudson; Tropicana Field next

COVID-19 patients can get monoclonal antibody treatment at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa and at the Fasano Center in Hudson. Next up will be a site at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg.

Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he’s opening 15 to 20 locations statewide so those with the coronavirus can get the therapy free of charge, funded by the federal government.  

The first location, which opened in Broward County, operates seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with an ability to serve more than 300 patients daily.   

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In a stop at the Fasano Center in Hudson, the governor said Pasco County's location would also be open from 9 to 5, handling 300 patients a day.

It's not yet clear when the site at Tropicana Field will open, but DeSantis told reporters Wednesday it would happen "by the end of the week." 

The state’s agricultural commissioner announced Thursday that she had granted permission for a new COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapy treatment site at the Florida State Fairgrounds, which falls under her supervision.

"To be explicitly clear: vaccines remain the absolute number-one way to reduce transmission of COVID-19 and prevent severe disease, hospitalization, and death from the virus," said Commissioner Nikki Fried, who is running for governor against DeSantis. "For those who unfortunately test positive for COVID-19, monoclonal antibody therapy may help reduce symptoms when treated early, so we’re pleased to make the Florida State Fairgrounds available for those needing this treatment."

The site is located at Kings Forest Park on East Chelsea Street and is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

The Hudson site, at the Fasano Center on Denton Avenue, will follow suit.

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Monoclonal antibodies battle the virus by mimicking a person’s immune system. While it has emergency use approval to treat people 12 and older with mild symptoms, the treatment doesn't work well for the most severe cases. It's given through an IV and takes about an hour to receive.  

DeSantis says these sites could help ease the rush on hospitals.   

"If you’re in a high-risk group and develop symptoms, as soon as you come and do this, you will absolutely see a decline in hospital admissions," DeSantis said Wednesday.  

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The governor is taking criticism for focusing on promoting the antibody treatments while saying little, recently, about promoting vaccines -- which work at preventing the virus altogether. 

DeSantis says the treatment for COVID-positive patients has been under-utilized because it gained emergency use approval from the FDA around the same time as the vaccines.  

Those who are positive for the virus and want the monoclonal antibody treatment can show up without a referral or a prescription, and can register at: