By Ileen Kennedy
Utah Army National Guard
The COVID-19 pandemic has led to one of the longest activations of the Utah National Guard in the state. The Utah National Guard has provided the state with support in COVID-19 testing, contact tracing and medical supplies warehousing and shipping. An additional and new part of the COVID-19 mission is in response to an executive order signed by Gov. Spencer Cox allowing the monoclonal antibody infusion to occur within the state by way of the FDA’s emergency use authorization. The authorization was granted as the infusions resulted in a reduction in emergency room visits and hospitalizations for patients.
The Utah Army and Air National Guard have supported the Utah Department of Health in this effort since mid-January 2021.
“The goal is to win the battle, and this battle is COVID-19,” said Tech. Sgt. Eric Bornemeier, a medic and the medical team noncommissioned officer in charge. Since early May, Bornemeier has been on the Guard’s COVID-19 response team and helped build the program they are using today.
Utah has surpassed 325,000 cases and more than 1,500 deaths. As cases continue to climb, many hospitals and healthcare workers have been pushed to the max. The goal of these infusions is to decrease the amount of people being hospitalized and ultimately save lives. These infusions may help patients combat the virus almost immediately. For patients who have recently been diagnosed with mild to moderate COVID-19, these therapies help to reduce viral load, symptoms, and the risk of hospitalization.
“Once a positive COVID-19 test is confirmed, there is a seven-day window to receive the infusion,” said Bornemeier. “Basically, in its simplest terms, we start an IV on a patient who is within that seven-day window.”
The UTNG’s Monoclonal Infusion Strike Team has been administering the monoclonal antibody infusions to patients living in long-term care facilities throughout Utah, as they house some of the state’s most vulnerable populations. The infusion teams, consisting largely of nurses and medics, administer an IV giving the patient an infusion of antibodies that the body would produce to fight off the virus.
“Antibodies are provided to the patient through the infusion, giving better outcomes and faster recovery times,” said Bornemeier. “It takes three hours for each patient to receive the infusion.”
Patients are able to lay comfortably in their beds or sit in a chair. Regular and extra precautions are taken to closely monitor each patient. Teams have been taught to respond to any emergency situation during the infusion.
“It allows you to fight off COVID-19 faster, meaning faster recovery times, a better outcome for these patients,” Bornemeier said. “It doesn’t take the place of the vaccine and doesn’t fight against all the different variances of the virus.”
Monoclonal antibodies are manufactured to mimic the appropriate immune response. This infusion is not meant to replace the vaccination, but rather to provide a quick intervention that could potentially help an individual avoid hospitalization.
“It gives the patient the ability to fight COVID-19 better,” said Bornemeier. “So, it gives them those antibodies that they are needing to get well faster."
Patients who received the infusions thus far, are doing well and have expressed extreme gratitude for the response. In less than a week, the teams have given 40 people the infusions.
“It's incredible to be able to give back to our community,” said Capt. Jeremy Metzger, the commanding officer in charge of the medical support team. “That's what we do. We are the Utah National Guard. This is our state and our citizens, our friends and our neighbors."
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