Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine vials sit on a table at a vaccination clinic at the Shepherd Union Atrium at Weber State University in Ogden on Aug. 10. Utah health officials confirmed 1,724 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths Wednesday. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY — The Utah Department of Health announced Wednesday the launch of a new COVID-19 antibody treatment facility that officials hope will help prevent hospitalizations.
The health department's Monoclonal Antibody Infusion Center opened on the campus of the Intermountain Healthcare Employee Services Center, 5245 College Drive, in Murray.
"This deployable medical facility will serve as a high volume site, providing treatment to as many as 50 patients per day, and supplementing monoclonal antibody infusions already taking place in hospitals across Utah," state health officials said in a statement.
Since last November, 7,100 residents received monoclonal antibody infusions, which officials said prevented about 900 hospitalizations.
"When properly identified and treated with monoclonal antibodies, one in eight Utahns at the highest risk of severe disease from COVID-19 can avoid being hospitalized," the health department said.
Utah Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, celebrated the center's opening, saying in a statement he hopes it will "move the needle to reduce hospitalizations and save lives."
Adams pointed to an Intermountain Healthcare study released in August. It found that 600 patients who were given the drug were 57% less likely to need hospitalization compared to the 5,000 patients in the study who didn't receive the treatment.
The treatment infuses a COVID-19 patient's blood with antibodies that latch onto the virus, as opposed to the vaccines, which prompt a person's immune system to create its own antibodies. The monoclonal antibody treatment has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration since December, and has been used in Utah since then, Intermountain doctors said in August.
Monoclonal antibody treatments are most effective in patients who are unvaccinated, at a higher risk for COVID-19, and who are early on in the course of their disease, researchers said.
"It is our duty to do everything in our power to save as many lives as possible. We cannot turn a blind eye to any treatment that will prevent additional hospitalizations and deaths. With the treatment covered by the federal government, it eliminates financial hurdles Utahns might feel when deciding to get the treatment," Adams said.
"We must continue to work toward making treatment widely available and convenient for Utahns. It is important that we take steps forward, not backward, in our COVID-19 response and mitigate hospitals from being overwhelmed," he said, thanking health care workers for their efforts to care for patients.
Utah health officials confirmed 1,724 new COVID-19 cases and 12 deaths on Wednesday.
School-age children accounted for 371 of the new cases — 159 cases were ages 5-10, 94 cases were 11-13, and 118 cases were 14-17, the Utah Department of Health said in a daily update.
The rolling seven-day average for new cases now stands at 1,443, and the percent positivity rate of those tested is 13.7%.
Health care workers administered 6,048 vaccines since Tuesday's report, bringing total vaccinations given in Utah to 3,405,516 doses, according to the data.
In the last 28 days, unvaccinated residents have faced 5.3 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 7.2 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to the coronavirus and 6.6 times greater risk of testing positive than vaccinated people, state health officials said.
Since Feb. 1, unvaccinated residents have experienced 4.4 times greater risk of dying from COVID-19, 5.1 times greater risk of being hospitalized due to the disease and 4.4 times greater risk of testing positive for COVID-19 than vaccinated people, data shows.
Since vaccines became available beginning early this year, the state has confirmed 15,470 breakthrough cases, 810 breakthrough hospitalizations and 99 breakthrough deaths. Cases are counted as breakthrough if patients were fully vaccinated more than two weeks before they tested positive for the coronavirus.
On Wednesday, 561 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 in Utah, an decrease of 19 since the previous day. Referral ICUs that can treat the most seriously ill patients were 93.9% full with coronavirus patients and others; overall ICU use stood at 91.9%; and non-ICUs across the state were 64.5% full.
One of the deaths reported Wednesday occurred before September. The latest deaths include:A Box Elder County man, between the ages of 65-84, who was hospitalized when he died.A Box Elder County woman, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.A Cache County woman, 65-84, not hospitalized.A Davis County man, 65-84, not hospitalized.A Davis County woman, 65-84, long-term care facility resident.A Davis County man, 65-84, hospitalized.A Salt Lake County man, 65-84, hospitalized.A Salt Lake County woman, older than 85, not hospitalized.A San Juan County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.A Utah County man, older than 85, long-term care facility resident.A Utah County woman, 65-84, hospitalized.A Utah County man, 65-84, hospitalized.