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Care Providers Announce New COVID Treatment

Two Chautauqua County health care facilities on Friday announced they will be treating high-risk patients with monoclonal antibodies, laboratory-produced molecules that help a person’s own immune system fight viruses.

In separate press releases, UPMC Chautauqua in Jamestown and the Chautauqua Rehabilitation & Nursing Center on Temple Road in Dunkirk announced the treatment. UPMC Chautauqua said seven patients have received the infusions and the patients with COVID-19 are typically at least 65 years old, have a body-mass index of 35 or greater, and have not had the illness for more than 10 days.

“These patients generally have mild to moderate symptoms and are not hospitalized,” said Trudy Bloomquist, director, surgical services. “The goal is to help them stay out of the hospital.”

UPMC Chautauqua is one of 10 UPMC hospitals to receive an allotment of the drug.

In the meantime, the care facility in Dunkirk announced the treatment amid a surge of cases in its facility. As first reported by the OBSERVER and The Post-Journal, 74 positive cases of COVID-19 have been linked to the site in the last two weeks. Thirty-four infections involve the staff while another 40 are impacting the residents.

Administration officials said the center has the advanced clinical setting necessary to administer the infusions, as well as a highly skilled nursing staff and on-site medical providers. “The monoclonal antibody infusions have proven to be an effective method of treatment for those who qualify, with many patients showing positive and timely responses,” stated Colleen Hart, Chautauqua Nursing & Rehabilitation Center administrator.

A clinical team at the center has been working closely with its medical director, Kent Lieber, MD, to implement protocols for administration and aftercare in concert with those specified in the authorization.

UPMC Chautauqua officials said it received nearly 50 doses in its initial shipment and patients have been chosen through a lottery system. “When a health-care provider has a patient test positive for COVID in the office or at the emergency department, they can send the patient’s information to our group in Pittsburgh,” said Bloomquist.

“They determine if the patient meets the criteria and receives the treatment.”

Selected patients receive one infusion of the monoclonal antibodies, hospital officials said. It’s given during a two-and-a-half to three-hour visit.

Since the patient has COVID-19, special precautions are taken. Patients call from the parking lot and are escorted to the infusion center, avoiding any stops along the way. The nurses who treat them wear all the required protective gear.

Patients have tolerated the treatment well. The first local treatment was done two weeks ago, and the staff has communicated with all the patients post infusion.

Monoclonal antibodies received emergency use authorization from the Food & Drug Administration in early November. Outgoing President Donald Trump received the same treatment while hospitalized with COVID in October.

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