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Confusion cleared for antibody infusion patients; County announces mobile testing schedule

Some COVID-positive individuals have been unable to receive infusions from the Jefferson County monoclonal antibody infusion center following a confusing announcement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Jefferson County Judge Jeff Branick said Tuesday that some primary care physicians in the area had been refusing to refer COVID-positive individuals to the Beaumont center following orders by the FDA that limited treatment to individuals 65 and older, morbidly obese, suffering from leukemia or other types of cancer, among others.

“In the meantime, after discussion with (an official with) the department of state health services, it was determined that the infusions are working well and it was opened up,” Branick said.

READ HERE: Port Arthur Health Department reports more than a half-dozen COVID deaths Wednesday morning.

As of Tuesday morning, 1,253 people had received infusions at the center, which opened Aug. 23 to increase capability by 500 percent, or 150 patients per day instead of the prior average of 30-35. However, the state-staffed center has operated at a higher-than-expected average.

“I will tell you that I’ve kept up with the hospitals every day,” Branick said. “Yesterday I was told that 93-95 percent of the individuals in the hospital right now — day to day, 93-95 percent — are unvaccinated. The 5 percent that are vaccinated that are getting the disease…the process has been much, much less severe. They’re able to be treated and released quickly.”

Branick said the infusions are showing a positive effect on hospital admissions, and that the only vaccinated COVID-positive person who has died was also in end-stage cancer, so officials are unsure of the official cause of death.

Following Hurricane Ida, which devastated parts of Louisiana this last weekend, COVID-positive individuals that have evacuated to the area have been receiving treatment from the infusion center, as well.

“My instructions were to treat them,” the county judge said, “because if they’re staying in our hotels or our centers that we have set up or are on standby…they will end up in our hospitals and we want to alleviate that suffering regardless of where they’re from.”

In addition to eligibility, another bit of confusion that may have kept COVID-positive people from receiving infusion treatments has been the cost of treatment.

“We want everyone to know that this is without cost to everyone,” Branick said of the infusions being covered under the American Rescue Plan Act. “Don’t let cost be a factor whether you are referred by a physician or whether you call the hotline number.”

Commissioner Everette “Bo” Alfred addressed calls he’s received about potential mask mandates.

Earlier this year, Governor Greg Abbott signed an executive order banning government entities and school districts from mandating masks. However, according to a report published Friday by the Texas Tribune, Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a Monday court filing neither he nor Abbot can enforce the order.

“I don’t think we have any intentions on mandating anything,” Alfred said. “But I will add this… this delta virus has no party affiliation, no racial affiliation, no religious affiliation — it takes any and everybody down. It doesn’t care.”

Alfred then encouraged all Jefferson County residents to social distance and wear masks when possible.

“I will ask any and everyone in our county,” he said, “please, please let’s use what God gave us — good common sense.”

For free COVID-19 testing

Commissioners recently approved free COVID-19 testing for the following dates and locations:

  • Labelle: Sept. 1 from 7 a.m. until noon, 22044 Burrell Wingate Road
  • Bevil Oaks: Sept. 1 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., 13550 River Oaks Blvd.
  • Beaumont: Sept. 2 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 700 Crockett St.
  • Port Arthur: Sept. 3 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Bob Bower’s Civic Center
  • Groves: Sept. 6 from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., 6150 39th St.
  • Hamshire: Sept. 6 from 2 p.m. to 7 p.m., Hamshire Community Center
  • Port Arthur: Sept. 7 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Bob Bower’s Civic Center
  • Beaumont: Sept. 8 from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., 700 Crockett St.
  • Labelle: Sept. 9 from 7 a.m. to noon, 22044 Burrell Wingate Rd.
  • Port Neches: Sept. 9 from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m., 1900 Magnola Ave.

For infusion treatments

The monoclonal antibody treatment center is open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Sunday. COVID-positive patients can get a referral from their primary care physician or call the hotline number at (409) 550-2536. The center is located at 5550 Eastex Freeway near Target in Beaumont.