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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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Speeding Recovery, Restoring Joy for a High-Risk COVID-19 Patient

Author: HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Published Date: 2/19/2021 6:44:00 PM
Category: Response & Recovery; Medical Countermeasures; National Disaster Medical System;

Joyce Sonday of Tucson, Arizona, loved walking her property and the neighborhood regularly, visiting with family and cooking for her husband, but all of that changed when she contracted COVID-19. She became exhausted and lost her taste and sense of smell. She wasn’t sure what was wrong but her husband experienced the same symptoms. At first she thought they had sinus infections but decided to go to their local clinic where she and her husband tested positive for COVID-19.

Joyce Sonday holding NDMS coins

Fortunately they knew a treatment was available, and that they were eligible to receive the treatment. They qualified under the FDA Emergency Use Authorization criteria because they are in their 60s and had underlying medical conditions that placed them at high risk of developing severe infections and becoming hospitalized. Less than a day later she and her husband had appointments to receive infusions of COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapeutics at the Tucson Medical Center, one of several federal infusion sites launched at the beginning of the year.

Monoclonal antibody therapeutics help eligible high-risk adults and children (12-17) who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have mild to moderate symptoms. These therapeutics have been granted Emergency Use Authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat eligible COVID-19 patients. The treatment, which takes a total of about two hours (Joyce reports she was able to comfortably watch her favorite football game while she was being treated), and the treatments can help boost the body’s immune response, keeping patients out of the hospital. The Tucson Medical Center, which was one of the first federally-supported COVID-19 infusion centers, is one of more than 4,800 sites across the country where these FDA-authorized treatments are available.

Medical professionals from the National Disaster Medical System partnered with Tucson Medical Center to set up an infusion center that could see up to 40 COVID-19 patients per day. Ms. Sonday happened to be the 500th patient seen across several federally-supported infusion centers. She and her husband are among the thousands of patients who have recovered and are feeling better after being treated. To date, none of the patients treated at the federal-supported infusion centers have needed to return for further COVID-19 treatment and none have required hospitalization related to COVID-19.

Joyce and her husband are happy to report that they are feeling much better, and they are relieved to be able to get this treatment. Joyce is happy to be back to doing the things she loves to do. After getting treated, she regained her sense of taste and smell, and with it her joy of cooking. She says she and her husband are registered to get the COVID-19 vaccine when their turn arrives. They have no desire to experience the effects of COVID-19 again, and they can’t wait to see their family when allowed.

Joyce is not alone in her story. Providers across the country can learn lessons from the NDMS-launched infusion centers which the local hospital systems were able to take over, as originally planned, with a small staffing requirement. ASPR has a toolkit and other resources to help providers and communities set up similar sites to reduce the burden on their hospitals and help COVID-19 patients recover. While the COVID-19 vaccines are the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, therapies like monoclonal antibodies are available today to help treat patients and potentially save lives.


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