The Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, held his first press conference on the coronavirus pandemic in two months on Thursday in Lubbock. He came bearing good news for the city, currently a hotspot due to a spike in cases of the virus. A newly approved coronavirus treatment is being distributed in Lubbock and other areas with overcrowded hospitals, including Midland, Amarillo, and El Paso.
The treatment is made by Eli Lilly and like the one President Trump received. It is known as bamlanivimab, an antibody therapy. The federal government granted emergency use authorization Monday for its use. It is only is only effective in patients already infected with the coronavirus, in the early stage of the virus, and before hospitalization.
“They have enough right now where they can begin the process and treat patients at least for the next several days,” Abbott said. He said he expects a second treatment to arrive in the coming weeks, as well as the first few shipments of a coronavirus vaccine, which could arrive by December and would go to first responders.
“The cavalry is coming,” he said, as the state reported another 230 deaths from the virus Thursday.
The antibody treatment is coming and another company has filed for emergency approval with the federal government, too.
But doses are likely to be very limited. About 80,000 doses were ready for distribution nationwide last week, and a few hundred thousand more were expected to be available through the end of the year.
A second company, Regeneron, has filed for federal emergency approval as well, and its treatment is likely to be available to states soon. Both treatments must be administered early in an infection, and it’s unclear how they will be distributed or who will be prioritized. The Eli Lilly treatment is being sent to hospitals, but to be eligible to receive it, patients can’t have been hospitalized yet.
Abbott said Texas was second in line for shipments of the drug, based on need. More than 1 million people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the state, and nearly 8,000 were hospitalized for it as of Thursday. Hospitalizations have more than doubled from early October and are nearing the record highs from this summer, when cases were raging across the state.
So, the bad news is the increase in hospitalizations and cases in Texas. The good news is that hotspots are receiving antibody therapy drugs while we all wait for the coronavirus vaccine to become available. In the meantime, there will not be another statewide lockdown ordered by the governor. On Thursday the state reported 12,293 new cases, surpassing the previous record of 12,293 just two days earlier. Abbott focuses on the ability to claw back re-opening measures based on regional hospital capacity, not on a statewide measure. He made a point of encouraging Texans to “remember the habits that got us through the spike of COVID-19 cases in July” — things like staying home if possible, wearing masks, social distancing and using hand sanitizer” should continue. Texas has been here before, the state can get through it again.
No one should let their guard down, mitigation measures remain in place. He advised those celebrating upcoming holidays to be “personally responsible.” The CDC and others in the medical community have advised against traveling during the holidays or holding large gatherings with people outside of your household.
Democrats are criticizing the governor for not taking stricter measures. They want to see local officials having the ability to shut down their counties as cases spike.
“I hope this new treatment is successful and saves lives, but Gov. Abbott should return power to local leaders so they can take decisive action to curb the rampant spread of COVID-19 in their communities,” state Rep. Chris Turner of Grand Prairie, head of the House Democratic Caucus, said in a statement. “Resigning ourselves to more people falling ill while focusing exclusively on potential therapies is not the strong response that is required.”
Governor Abbott explained that he won’t lockdown the entire state again but focus on “working to heal those who have COVID, get them out of hospitals quickly, make sure they get back to their normal lives.” A group of nurses, doctors and other medical professionals in Lubbock drafted a petition asking the governor to put stricter restriction in place. They ask for banning after-school activities for children and limiting group sizes at restaurants and bars. Bars are already shut down in Lubbock due to the hospital capacity rate.