WATCH: Whitmer highlights COVID-19 monoclonal antibody therapies

Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 9:20 AM, Apr 14, 2021
and last updated 2021-04-14 17:47:29-04

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer highlighted new COVID-19 treatments during her latest update on the state's pandemic response Wednesday afternoon.

She was joined by Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive at the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.

Both are designed to significantly reduce hospitalizations and deaths due to COVID-19 and involve additional doses of monoclonal antibodies being made available to providers and requests to providers to expand the number of infusion sites in the state.

“We are using every mitigation strategy, every medication and every treatment option to fight the virus here in Michigan,” Whitmer said. “These antibody treatments could keep you out of the hospital and save your life, and my administration and I will continue working with the federal government to make sure we are using all the tools in our toolbox to keep you and your family safe and get back to normal sooner.”

Monoclonal antibodies are lab-produced molecules that can restore, enhance or mimic the immune system’s attack on cells.

They target different parts of the virus and prevents it from bonding with cells in the body, effectively neutralizing it.

Preliminary data from the state suggests more than 6,600 Michiganders have received this treatment, with 65% reporting feeling better with two days of treatment and less than 5% of them requiring hospitalization following treatment.

“When administered to non-hospitalized patients within 10 days of symptom onset, monoclonal antibodies may reduce symptoms and the risk of hospitalizations and emergency room visits associated with the virus,” Khaldun said. “Michiganders who contract COVID-19 should ask their health care providers about receiving this treatment and I urge providers to assess if their patients qualify. We have seen successful use of this therapy in long-term care facilities and even in home use by EMS providers. This therapy can help save the lives of more Michigan residents as we work to vaccinate 70% of Michiganders age 16 and older with the safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.”

More than 70 sites in 37 counties across the state are providing these treatments.

The update comes as Michigan continues to see COVID-19 trends that Khaldun described as concerning.

In addition, the state is following FDA and CDC recommendations to pause the use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

SEE MORE: Local health departments suspend use of Johnson & Johnson vaccine

Watch the news conference:

"Patients are once again lining our hallways like they were in the spring," Khaldun said.

Over the past week, the state's test positivity rate was about 18%, according to Khaldun.

She reiterated past statements that "just because something is open and legal doesn't mean you should be doing it."

In regard to the J&J vaccine, Khaldun said the risk of getting COVID-19 if someone isn't vaccinated is "much higher than your risk of getting an adverse reaction to this vaccine."

While federal health officials evaluate the six cases of blood clots found in women who had gotten the J&J vaccine, Khaldun urged Michiganders who have not already gotten vaccinated to schedule an appointment to get either the Pfizer or Moderna options.

Despite the rising metrics in Michigan, Whitmer still says vaccinations -- not restrictions -- are the No. 1 tool to fight the pandemic, followed by masking.

However, she's also urging residents to avoid high-risk activities like indoor dining.

The "educated theory" about why Michigan's case rate is so high right now is actually because of past success in bringing numbers down, Whitmer said.

That means people are tired of following mitigation matters and have returned to many pre-pandemic activities.

As more contagious variants spreading in the state combine with fatigue, a large population without antibodies and increased mobility, cases continue to go up.

However, Whitmer reminded residents that some restrictions are still in place, such as mask requirements and capacity limits.