Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) is asking the Biden Administration for help managing the ongoing COVID-19 crisis in Texas after the state health department says they’ve run out of an antibody treatment proven to be the most effective against the omicron variant.
Abbott on Friday released a statement saying the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM) and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) requested resources for federally-supported testing locations in Bexar, Cameron, Dallas, Harris, Hidalgo, and Tarrant counties.
The governor said the state health department has also requested three teams of medical personnel to provide additional support to hospitals in urban areas of the state that do not have DSHS-contracted staff as well as additional allocations of monoclonal antibody treatments to fight the omicron variant and other variants of the virus.
“Detecting COVID-19 and preventing COVID-related hospitalizations are critical to our fight against this virus,” said Abbott in a prepared statement. “Testing sites, additional medical staff, and continued shipments of therapeutics from the federal government will help us continue to save lives and mitigate the spread of COVID-19.”
The governor said in a statement Friday “the Biden administration has cut supplies of monoclonal antibody treatments and testing kits when they are needed most, the State of Texas is urging the federal government to step up in this fight and provide the resources necessary to help protect Texans.”
Since March 2021, the governor has stood pat on his position that mitigation efforts, such as mask or vaccine mandates, are not the business of the state and instead has asked Texans to take personal responsibility and to use the tools they know work when fighting the pandemic.
Meanwhile, as new cases of COVID-19 soar, infusion centers across the state are said to have exhausted their supply of sotrovimab, a monoclonal antibody therapeutic currently available under an emergency use authorization to treat those infected with the more-transmissible omicron variant.
The scarcity of the therapeutic stems from a national shortage, according to the state agency. The centers are expected to receive new shipments in early January as was previously announced by the federal government.
Earlier this week, the DSHS said other monoclonal antibodies have not shown to be effective against the omicron variant, which now accounts for more than 90% of new cases; on Friday the DSHS said an additional allocation of sotrovimab has been requested to help treat the rising number of infected Texans.
The agency also requested that the federal government continue to supply Texas with Regeneron and bamlanivimab, monoclonal antibody treatments proven to help reduce hospitalizations across the state for those suffering from other strains of COVID-19.
President Joe Biden said last week the federal government was going to buy half a billion COVID-19 rapid test kits and distribute them free of charge to people to use at home. But despite the high public demand for tests, it will still be several more weeks before these kits are available to be shipped. The administration is still working on details for how the program will work.
COVID Cases Rising Across DFW, Texas
In the last week, the number of new cases of COVID-19 has skyrocketed across the state while hospitalizations in DFW have doubled. The molecular positivity rate reported by the state health department on Thursday was at an all-time high since the pandemic began nearly two years ago.
On Tuesday, Parkland Memorial Hospital in Dallas reported its patient load doubled in just four days. The hospital said staff is preparing to open two more COVID-19 wards by the end of this week. Dr. Joseph Chang, chief medical officer at Parkland, said most of the COVID-19 patients ending up in the hospital are unvaccinated.