New Treatment Could Ease COVID Hospitalizations, but Strain Still Increasing

Nov. 17, 2020, 5:23 p.m. ·


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Nebraska’s chief medical officer says a new treatment may reduce the number of people who need to be hospitalized for COVID 19, but the state’s hospitals remain strained. And Governor Pete Ricketts says he still thinks mask mandates are inappropriate, even as individual cities across the state consider requiring masks.

Nebraska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Gary Anthone, says treatments have improved since the early days of the pandemic. The latest treatment to be approved, on Nov. 9, is monoclonal antibodies, which attacks the protein the virus uses to attach itself to a cell, eventually destroying the virus.

Anthone says the state will begin distributing monoclonal antibodies next week, and they can be used in outpatient settings, such as long term care facilities, where they can be administered intravenously. He says they can be used immediately after someone is diagnosed, can reduce the severity of the illness, and can reduce hospitalization rates by 5 to 10 percent.

“So let’s say you had 100 patients that you gave the monoclonal antibody infusion to. Hopefully it can prevent 5 to 10 of those patients from eventually ending up needing hospitalization, which would be a great thing to have at this point,” Anthone said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, the Department of Health and Human Services was reporting about 1,200 of Nebraska’s roughly 4,200 beds were available. Anthone said a center in Omaha that arranges transfers from hospitals that are reaching their capacity to ones with more space is getting busier.

“The volume has increased for the transfer center quite a bit, from maybe only 3 or 4 of these transfers taking place a day, up to about 17 or 18 yesterday,” he said.

The discussion took place at a news conference hosted by Gov. Pete Ricketts, as cities around the state are considering mandating the use of masks to slow the spread of the virus. Speaking via Zoom, since he is quarantining, Ricketts repeated his opposition to mandates

“I don’t think mask mandates are appropriate. I think that they breed resistance,” Ricketts said.

Ricketts repeated his advice that cities check with their lawyers to see if they have the legal authority to issue mandates. He said he has not asked Attorney General Doug Peterson for an opinion, although he said he may do that in the future. A spokesperson for Peterson said he has not yet issued an opinion, and also advised local governments to consult with their attorneys.