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State approves Jefferson County's request for infusion center

The hope is to have the center set up within three to four days once it's fully approved.

BEAUMONT, Texas — Jefferson County commissioners are working to get help from the state to battle the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the form of an infusion center.

Their request for a regional infusion center in the county to treat some of those infected with the COVID-19 virus has been accepted, according to a Wednesday announcement from Jefferson County tax assessor collector Allison Getz.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick will hold a press conference for the four-county area on Monday, August 23, at 9 a.m. at the regional infusion center located at 5550 Eastex Freeway in Beaumont.

Commissioners spent some of Tuesday morning in a special meeting discussing their request for the state to set up an infusion center in the county.

Branick said during the meeting that they hope to have the center set up within three to four days once after it's fully approved. 

The infusion center will be at no cost to the public, Jefferson County Emergency Management Coordinator Mike White tells 12News. Jefferson County will pay about 60 percent of the bill. Orange, Hardin and Jasper counties will pay the remaining 40 percent.

The infusion center will cost the five counties less than $100,000, with some of the funding coming from the CARES Act. The region has half of the amount needed in the bank, White said.

The county plans to set up the center in the empty Golden Triangle Emergency Center just south of Target along Eastex Freeway.

Baptist Hospitals of Southeast Texas CEO Justin Doss addressed commissioners during the meeting speaking in favor of opening the center.

The main goal of the infusion center is to administer monoclonal antibodies to people who tested positive for COVID-19 prior to a few days when they may become symptomatic, requiring hospitalization, Branick said.

One of the good things about the infusion center will be that nurses will be able to monitor how patients respond to the treatment, Doss told commissioners.

Antibody infusion is one treatment which has been adopted over the course of the pandemic, specifically as an effort to treat COVID-19 patients at an early enough stage where hospitalization or more severe symptoms may be avoided. The specific antibody "cocktail" being administered is Regeneron, which is what doctors used to treat former President Donald Trump when he was briefly hospitalized last fall.   

Hospitals in Southeast Texas are currently doing about 30 infusions combined per day. Now that the infusion center has been approved, White said they'll aim to do 150 infusions per day.

"It should drastically and very quickly bring our hospital numbers down," White said.

Patients who are eligible for the therapy are those who have tested positive for COVID-19 but have not yet developed severe symptoms. White said patients can get a doctor's note from a primary care physician or by calling a hotline where a physician can assist you. 

According to the Food and Drug Administration, to qualify for the infusion, you must be over 12-years-old, weigh at least 88 pounds and fall into one or more high risk groups.

  • Obese or overweight with a body mass index (BMI) of 35 or greater
  • Pregnant
  • Chronic kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Condition that disrupts or suppresses the immune system, such as HIV or leukemia
  • Currently receiving immunosuppressive treatments (after a transplant, for example)
  • Cardiovascular disease or hypertension
  • Chronic lung disease, including moderate to severe asthma
  • Sickle cell disease
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders or other complex medical conditions
  • Medical-related technological dependence, (a tracheostomy or gastrostomy, for example)
  • Age 65 or older

Talk to your doctor if you're not sure whether you qualify.

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This is a developing story. We will update with more if and when we receive more confirmed information.

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