LUBBOCK — On Thursday, Governor Greg Abbott held the first coronavirus news conference since September and discussed the distribution of Bamlanivimab in Texas, the first antibody drug to help the immune system fight the coronavirus. Abbott addressing the state on COVID-19 therapy distribution comes on the heels of the state facing a drastic peak in hospitalizations, up to 8,000 at this time.
Gov. Abbott spoke from Lubbock, alongside Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt, Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, University of Texas System Executive Vice Chancellor of Health Affairs John Zerwas and Texas Tech System Chancellor Tedd Mitchell, who contracted COVID-19 earlier this year.
Watch the press conference here:
“We’re in trouble,” Dr. Cook, the heath authority in Lubbock County told NBCDFW today. In Lubbock, more than 1,000 Lubbock residents have signed a petition that asked the governor for more effort to curb COVID-19, as rates continue to soar in the area.
Abbott stated that the first medical treatment from Eli Lilly for COVID-19 has arrived in Texas, and referenced that the drug is similar to the one that was taken by President Trump when he had COVID-19.
The experimental drug is a one-time treatment and is for people 12 and older with mild or moderate coronavirus, who do not require hospitalization, according to the Associated Press.
“All of West Texas will be getting the antibody treatment,” Abbott said. Lubbock has already received supplies of the antibody drug.
Abbott said the best use of the antibody therapeutic treatment is for those in the early stage of COVID-19, and given at an early date will keep them out of hospitals. “That is the goal, to both heal Texas and ease the burden on hospitals in Lubbock and elsewhere,” the governor said.
The next steps include identifying those who are eligible for antibody treatment, typically people aged 65 or older with concurring health care issues who have tested positive for COVID-19, Abbott said. The governor also said nursing homes will get this treatment.
“All it takes is one hour,” Abbott said.
Texans shouldn’t let their guard down when it comes to prevention. “Everyone knows we have an increase of COVID-19 in Texas but everyone knows this isn’t our first response to this challenge,” Abbott said, referencing July outbreaks and “crushing” the virus and slowing the spread.
Abbott said the state is anticipating two vaccines to be approved by Pfizer and Moderna by December. “We are already prepared structurally for the quick distribution, once they are approved,” the governor said.
“It’s very promising but it’s not magical,” said State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt, about the antibody treatment.
Over time, it will decrease the number of people in the hospital, Hellerstedt explained. When it comes to the risk of this new treatment, Dr. Hellerstedt said risks for this antibody treatment are low for allergic and other infusion reactions.
Hellerstedt said his three priorities are “prevention, prevention, prevention.” He said a lot of people without symptoms are causing the spread, and the number one way to prevent COVID-19 spread is a mask.
“This is a marathon we are not at the finish line yet,” he added.
Abbott is staying the course, saying Texas will not have any more lockdowns. He reiterated cities and counties already have all the tools in the toolbox they need to address COVID-19. They simply need to enforce those policies, Abbott said.
When asked about the criticism for unspent CARES Act funding for Texas, Abbott defended the process saying he wanted to ensure funding was available as needs come up like now when Lubbock and other areas are facing coronavirus surges.
Texas House Democrats criticized Abbott for not implementing further measures to curb the spread of COVID-19 and not giving back the power for local leaders to do the same.
“Every twelve minutes, another Texan dies of COVID-19. That’s three more Texans dead just during the governor’s press conference today; three more loved ones who won’t be with us this holiday season,” Representative Chris Turner (D-Grand Prairie), chair of the Texas House Democratic Caucus, said in response to the press conference.
“It didn’t have to be this way. The governor’s decision to wield absolute power in response to this crisis has failed. The governor should get out of the way and let local leaders take measures to protect their communities,” Turner added.
This week The Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) released Thanksgiving public health guidance that includes that one of the safest ways to celebrate is with a virtual Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family.
“Other safe activities include watching parades, sports and holiday movies at home or making a meal for a neighbor and delivering it without direct contact,” according to the DSHS holiday guidance.