As COVID-19 case numbers continue to decrease slowly throughout the Hattiesburg area, Mayor Toby Barker is urging any residents who may test positive to seek the monoclonal antibody treatments against the virus, which are designed to help prevent progression of the disease and speed up recovery of COVID-positive cases.
In a video address on Sept. 8, Barker said between Forrest General Hospital and Merit Health Wesley, there were 120 hospitalized patients who were confirmed COVID positive. Of those, 44 were in the Intensive Care Unit; 31 were on ventilators.
“You can see that even though that number has come down from the peak of 180 in mid-August, we’re still above the peak that we saw post-Christmas and post-New Year’s,” Barker said. “What you often see, is when we have really high case counts, typically in a week to 10 days or two weeks after that, you’ll start to see that translate into hospitalizations.
“As those numbers have come down, especially on that ‘inside 14-day’ number, you’re starting to see the hospitalization numbers come down as well. However, this season of COVID brought us more ICU patients than we’ve ever had. The takeaway here is the need for people to realize that if you get diagnosed with COVID, immediately reach out about monoclonal antibody treatments, because those have a 70 percent efficacy in reducing serious illness and hospitalization.”
Recently, officials from the Cough & Fever Clinic in Hattiesburg announced the clinic has increased its capacity for treatments from 100 per week to 277 treatments per week. The services are available from 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday through Friday, from noon-6 p.m. on Saturdays, and from 1-6 p.m. on Sundays.
When the monoclonal antibody treatments were first made available to patients, the only option was a one-time intravenous infusion that takes approximately 30 minutes to complete. Because of the recent spike in COVID cases, a second option is now available, which consists of four subcutaneous injections.
Whichever route the patient chooses, he or she will be required to remain in the clinic for an hour while officials monitor them for any side effects.
To book an appointment free of charge, patients can call (601) 261-1533 or log in to their Iris account and use the patient portal. To qualify, individuals must be at least 12 years of age, weight at least 88 pounds and have had COVID within the last 10 days.
“What’s better now is that we’ve got more of the medications, and more access to resources to get it to patients,” Hattiesburg Clinic physician Samuel Crosby said in an earlier story. “The programs that we developed at Hattiesburg Clinic … our mortality rate was already a fraction of what it was statewide and national.
“What I was excited about was, if we can get these to people early, we’ll have less people needing supplemental oxygen, less people developing pneumonia, less people getting blood clots. Ideally, you’re also trying to prevent hospitalizations, and that has worked as well, but it’s not just the hospitalization numbers; it’s how sick people get overall.”
As of the day of Barker’s Sept. 8 address, out of the 120 patients who were hospitalized, 10 were fully vaccinated against the virus. Of the 44 in the ICU, three were fully vaccinated; of the 31 on ventilators, three were fully vaccinated.
From the time from Sept. 3 to Barker’s address, Forrest County reported 10 new deaths from the virus, for a total of 219 deaths since COVID hit the area. Lamar County reported seven new deaths in that time, for a total of 118.
On Sept. 8, Forrest County reported 39 new cases, while Lamar County reported 22 new cases.
The ‘inside 14-day’ number, which shows the number of individuals who have tested positive for the virus in the last two weeks, was 940 in Forrest County and 569 in Lamar County, for a total of 1,509 in the Hattiesburg metropolitan area.
“The inside 14-day number, compared to a week ago, shows some good signs here,” Barker said. “Forrest County’s down almost 800, and compared to a week ago, Lamar County is down by over 500.
“The metro area total is down 1,300 in the last 14 days compared to a week ago. So that’s a positive sign.”
As of Sept. 8, 25,544 Forrest County residents, or 33 percent, were fully vaccinated. Six percent, or 29,085 had received one dose.
In Lamar County, 30,403, or 48 percent of residents, were fully vaccinated. Thirty-five thousand, four hundred and eighty-five residents, or 8 percent, had received one dose.