SAN ANTONIO — As coronavirus infections surge and Texas hospitals once again contend with a pandemic which has reared its head in recent weeks, Freeman Coliseum's expo hall is being turned into a no-cost antibody infusion site once again.
The site is one of five which have been organized across Texas. A similar effort was undertaken at a previous point in the pandemic, during which time more than 3,000 patients were assisted, according to Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff. He says more beds are being utilized this time around.
"This is what it looks like when you have a medical system in crisis," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said, gesturing to the setup behind him.
Antibody infusion is one treatment which has been adopted over the course of the pandemic, specifically as an effort to treat COVID-19 patients at an early enough stage where hospitalization or more severe symptoms may be avoided. The specific antibody "cocktail" being administered is Regeneron, which is what doctors used to treat former President Donald Trump when he was briefly hospitalized last fall.
As of Friday, there were 1,002 COVID-19 patients in local hospitals; early February was the last time the number was that high.
Officials emphasizes the site, which will be operational come 8 a.m. Tuesday, isn't a walk-up treatment location. Patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms must first go to their doctor, who will then determine whether Regeneron treatment is necessary.
"This is one of those options of last resort for folks to try and get better from a COVID infection," Mayor Ron Nirenberg said. "It's to get them well before they take an even harder turn for the worse, before they have to call EMS."
Derrick Howard, executive director of the Freeman site, said patients can expect the process to take about two hours—one for the actual infusion, followed by an hour-long observation period.
Despite the site serving as another way to keep patients out of local emergency rooms, both Wolff and Nirenberg continued to urge unvaccinated residents to schedule a time to get the shot, pointing to the high rate of unvaccinated COVID-19 patients at hospitals.
"You need to get it done now, the delta variant is no joke," Nirenberg said. "We all have to do our part. This is another resource we have available to ease the stress at our hospitals, (but) the best thing we can do right now is make sure we don’t put that stress on (those facilities) in the first place.”
As of Friday, more than 249,000 Bexar County residents have been diagnosed with COVID-19 while more than 9,600 were still ill. More than 3,600 have died from virus complications.
In response to the concerning rise in infections, Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff are set to resume their evening COVID-19 response briefings for the first time since the spring on Tuesday.
This is a developing story. Check back with KENS5.com for updates.