April 17, 2021

Whitmer continues to push personal responsibility to combat rising COVID-19 numbers in Michigan

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Wednesday message to Michiganders to combat the latest surge of COVID-19 was…

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s Wednesday message to Michiganders to combat the latest surge of COVID-19 was much like last week’s message: Get vaccinated, continue to wear masks, social distance and regularly wash hands.

But if you happen to catch COVID-19, Whitmer highlighted a therapy — monoclonal antibodies —that has been available since December but somewhat underused.

So far, 6,600 people who have contracted COVID-19 within about 10 days have received the 21-minute infusion. In early March, Crain’s reported that about 4,000 people had received the antibodies.

“Sixty-five percent of patients report feeling better within two days and less than 5 percent require hospitalization following the treatment,” said Whitmer said, adding: “If you’re diagnosed with COVID, talk to a physician to see if you’re eligible for this treatment. Time is of the essence with these therapeutics. The sooner you receive them after you test positive, the more effective they will be.”

Clinical trial data from Lilly and Regeneron project the treatments can reduce hospitalizations among high-risk COVID patients from 10 percent to 3 percent. The FDA gave emergency use authorization to Lilly and Regeneron in November.

Dr. Adnan Munkarah, chief clinical officer at six-hospital Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, said the system has been treating patients successfully with monoclonal antibodies over the last five months.

“This treatment has the potential not only to help patients who are suffering from the severe effects of COVID-19, but also to ease the burden on our hospitals and caregivers,” Munkarah said. “At the same time, we must stay vigilant by getting vaccinated and following the safety measures we have in place.”

Whitmer said the state is trying to get more shipments of the monoclonal antibody therapy and the antiviral remdesivir for COVID-19 treatment.

“We are using every mitigation strategy, every medication, and every treatment option to fight the virus here in Michigan,” Whitmer said.

Whitmer said therapeutics are another tool, but not a substitution for the vaccine. So far, 5.4 million doses have been administered to Michiganders in the race to get ahead of coronavirus.

Pfizer’s announcement of increasing manufacturing of the vaccine by 10 percent will help ease the safety pause in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Whitmer said.

Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, the state’s chief medical executive, said she is “incredibly concerned” that COVID-19 continues to spread throughout the state.

“We have broad community spread, five times more than in the fall,” said Khaldun, adding that the state now has identified 2,752 variants of the virus in 52 counties.

“Hospitalizations are increasing, many hospitals at or near capacity,” she said. “I worked in the ER over the weekend. It was exhausting. We are seeing many younger people coming with Covid 19 and other people as well. We are spread too think. This situation is very serious.”

While the state isn’t recommending any changes in its 50 percent capacity limitation for restaurants, Khaldun said sitting in a restaurant “without a mask on simply is not safe now.”

Munkarah said COVID-19 patients admitted to Henry Ford hospitals are up six-fold since March 1. The system now has more than 350 COVID-19 patients admitted.

“Families continue to lose their loved ones to COVID-19 and all struggle to cope with loved ones who are getting very sick and hospitalized,” Munkarah said. “Our care teams are emotionally and physically exhausted. They are more than committed and dedicated to provide the best care. However, they are frustrated to see people coming in very sick and die of an infection that we can control. The most important thing that we can do is to get vaccinated.”