Mike Munson woke up one morning prior to Christmas with a mild scratchy throat. Knowing his symptoms were in line with COVID-19, the fully vaccinated Eureka financial planner reached out to his primary care provider. Months before, Munson and his doctor had developed an action plan of care if the Eureka native ever got COVID-19. The proactive approach was based on Munson’s health history and the understanding that if he contracted COVID-19 was at higher risk for serious illness or hospitalization.
After a positive test, the plan sprang into action as Munson’s doctor wrote an order for him to get treatment at the monoclonal antibody (MAB) clinic at Providence St. Joseph Hospital in Eureka. The clinic, which launched in August during the Delta surge, has now treated more than 300 COVID-19 positive patients.
Monoclonal antibody therapy helps boost the body’s natural immune system to fight the coronavirus. Treatment is focused on those who have mild to moderate symptoms, are in the first few days of illness and are at high risk for progression to severe COVID-19.
A day after the referral, Munson was in a chair at the clinic getting his one-time 20-minute infusion.
“They got me in very quick, staff was amazing, and it was an easy experience overall.” said Munson, who’s symptoms remained mild over the course of his illness. “While the treatment addressed the virus in my body, mentally the peace of mind was very powerful. It’s really reassuring from a community perspective that Providence has this resource available here in Humboldt County.”
When it became clear to hospital officials that the community would benefit from the development of a MAB clinic, the St Joseph Hospital facilities team converted a conference room into a clinical area with special ventilations and new floors. From a clinical approach, nursing and pharmacy leaders worked with senior leaders and physicians to develop protocols and a staffing model that featured a combination of hospital staff and traveling nurses provided by the Emergency Medical Services Authority from the state of California in response to COVID-19. The clinic has been treating on average 15-20 patients per day since the beginning of 2022. The clinic is by appointment only, Monday through Friday from 8am – 4pm. Patients who have tested positive need an order from a physician or licensed Advanced Practice Provider for treatment.
As the Delta variant waned in the late Fall and gave way to Omicron in December, the treatment protocols at MAB clinics across the country, including the one at St. Joseph Hospital, have changed based on guidance from U.S. Health regulators like the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the National Institute of Health (NIH). Instead of Regeneron, which was a highly effective monoclonal antibody drug during Delta’s surge, MAB clinics have transitioned to a new monoclonal infusion treatment due to Omicron’s resistance to Regeneron. Currently, the clinic at St. Joseph Hospital is treating patients using a limited supply of a new monoclonal antibody drug, Sotrovimab. Also available for treatment are highly effective antiviral drugs Remdesevir and Paxlovid. Another combination of monoclonal antibodies called Evasheld is available through the St. Joseph Hospital Ambulatory Infusion Program as a preventative for moderate to severe immunocompromised patients.
“When administered during the first 7-10 days of COVID symptoms, monoclonal antibody treatment has been an overwhelming success from the standpoint of reducing the risk of hospitalization and death in patients at increased risk of severe COVID,” said Roberta Luskin-Hawk, MD, an infectious disease physician and chief executive for Providence in Humboldt County. “This approach not only benefits patients with COVID-19, but also maintains hospital beds and personnel for patients with other medical and surgical conditions. It’s a testament to the dedication of our staff to be able to mobilize and operationalize this critical treatment program for our community. I could not be prouder of our caregivers who continue to answer the call for their patients.”
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