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First FDA-Approved COVID-19 Treatment Hits Texas, Aims To Keep People Out of Hospitals

While they expect COVID-19 treatments to become more available, Gov. Greg Abbott and state health experts say Texans still need to focus on prevention.EXPAND
While they expect COVID-19 treatments to become more available, Gov. Greg Abbott and state health experts say Texans still need to focus on prevention.
Gage Skidmore

A new COVID-19 drug therapy will be made available in Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott announced during a press conference at the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center Thursday. Called bamlanivimab, it has shown to improve symptoms in patients in the early stages of the coronavirus and should help keep hospitals under maximum capacity.

“The goal of this drug is to keep people out of hospitals,” Abbott said.

Administered via an intravenous drip, the antibody therapy created by Eli Lilly and Co. only takes about an hour and is the first authorized by the Food and Drug Administration. Abbott said it will be reserved for people in the early stages of the virus who are likely to develop severe symptoms, such as immunocompromised patients and those 65 or older.

The first allocation of bamlanivimab was distributed in Lubbock, with more expected in the city and across the state in the coming weeks. While he acknowledged the recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Texas, Abbott said there will not be another shutdown.

Instead, he said while Texans wait for the new therapy, they should adhere to existing health protocols and guidance, such as staying indoors when possible, wearing a mask in public, social distancing and frequentluy washing and sanitizing hands.

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“It’s so easy to let our guard down thinking that maybe COVID-19 has passed,” Abbott said. “All we need to do is bring that guard back up.”

Abbott said he expects the state will also soon get authorization to distribute a similar drug therapy created by Regeneron that was administered to President Donald Trump. Also, two vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna will be approved sometime in December, which the state is already set up to distribute.

W. Nim Kidd, chief of the Texas Division of Emergency Management and is the vice chancellor for Disaster and Emergency Services, said that while the treatment and ones to come will make a difference, they are not an excuse to ignore health protocols and guidelines aimed at slowing the spread of the virus. “Just because you have a seatbelt in your car, that doesn’t mean you should speed and drive recklessly,” Kidd said.

Dr. John William Hellerstedt, commissioner for the department of state health services, echoed Kidd’s caution. The drugs are promising, he said, but they’re not magical and people should still focus on prevention. He said the therapy still has to be given to the right group of people and at the right stage of the virus to be most effective..

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