A North Georgia city is hosting one of the state’s first drive-through infusion clinics to treat patients who were recently diagnosed with COVID-19. GPB’s Ellen Eldridge reports.

A nurse walks into a tent clinic

A nurse enters a monoclonal antibody site Aug. 18 in Florida. Dalton, Ga., has a new Regeneron treatment drive-in clinic for early diagnosed COVID-19 cases. The city council believes this clinic is the first of its kind in Georgia.

Credit: (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Treatment of COVID-19 with monoclonal antibodies could save your life and keep you out of the hospital, medical experts say.

And elected officials in one Georgia city  — Dalton — are listening.

In Whitfield County, where roughly just 35% of residents are fully vaccinated, COVID-19 cases spiked in recent weeks.

Dalton City Council member Annalee Harlan helped partner with Hamilton Health Care System to bring a drive-in clinic to the city’s convention center last weekend. She said this treatment, which is given as four injections received on the same day, reduces hospitalizations of high-risk patients by 70%.

She called the monoclonal antibodies treatment a Band-Aid for people with breakthrough infections, and for those who are severely immunocompromised, such as transplant patients.

"These are people that this (treatment) is going to be the difference, potentially, for life and death for them," Harlan said.

Regeneron's monoclonal antibody treatment, called REGN-COV2, is for patients to use within a week of testing positive and getting sick from COVID-19. The drug can mitigate symptoms and keep people out of Georgia’s already-crowded hospitals. 

Emory School of Medicine’s Dr. Carlos del Rio, one of the top infectious disease doctors in Georgia, said last fall that the treatment showed promising results in patients, especially when given to those with mild COVID-19 symptoms shortly after they get sick. Former President Donald Trump was given the antibody cocktail drug early in October 2020 — reportedly through compassionate use, which was something the company had only done for about 10 people at that time.

Now, patients can self refer for treatment by booking an appointment on the city's website. A phone registration option is also available.

Anyone who is eligible can receive the COVID-19 monoclonal antibody treatment at any Northeast Georgia Physicians Group primary care offices or urgent care locations, even if you’re not an established patient.

No residency restrictions apply because the Regeneron treatment does not come from a state allotment, Harlan said.

"They do not require a prescription from a physician, but there are some criteria," she said.

Older people and those with medical conditions are prioritized for treatment.

But the key to ending the pandemic, Harlan said, is vaccination.