TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A striking image circulating on Reddit shows a COVID-19 treatment site struggling to respond to an influx of patients in Jacksonville.
The image, taken by Louie Lopez on Wednesday, shows two women lying on the floor of Jacksonville’s main library as they waited in line for free Regeneron treatments.
“Everyone please be careful — whether you are vaccinated or not. My husband (vaccinated, but positive) has been waiting 2+ hours for monoclonal therapy and he says he has never seen people so sick. Moaning, crying, unable to move,” Lopez’s wife, Suzanne, said in the post on Reddit.
Lopez told the Florida Times-Union he tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing moderate to severe symptoms. His doctor suggested he get the Regeneron treatment, which injects monoclonal antibodies into COVID-19 patients before their symptoms worsen.
Lopez said the women came in behind him and immediately sat on the floor. Both eventually lied down. One did not have the strength to pick herself up, and dragged herself on the floor as the line moved forward, Lopez said.
“They were very sick. I told somebody else that picture doesn’t convey how much in pain they were because they were moaning,” Lopez told the newspaper. “The poor woman in yellow could barely move. She needed help. I asked her at one point if she needed help. She said no, but she was just miserable.”
Florida had plans to open 17 monoclonal antibody treatment sites across the state, including two sites in Tampa and Hudson. The sites have more than 300 appointments available each day for people to get the treatment.
The library in Jacksonville was the first state-run site to offer the Regeneron doses. It served 97 doses on Tuesday and 143 doses on Wednesday, according to city spokeswoman Nikki Kimbleton.
“There were only a couple of chairs in there…But then as the line started to progress, more people came in and that’s when I realized that they were taking walk-ins at the same time as appointments and the people that were laying down, they were behind me and I was just watching them for a while and they were just sick and moaning,” Lopez recalled. “Part of me wondered why [staff] didn’t just take them up to the front. And it was cold in there. They brought some of those paper coats and covered them up and then probably after about another half hour, they came and got wheelchairs and put them on wheelchairs.”
Kimbleton verified the authenticity of Lopez’ photo in an statement to First Coast News.
“The volume of patients at this state operated facility more than doubled yesterday. There were wheelchairs on hand, but at the time these pictures were taken, all of the available wheelchairs were in use,” she said.
Kimbleton told news outlets changes were made to better accommodate the influx of patients.
“JFRD and COJ are providing triple the number of wheelchairs, additional seating for those waiting in line and signage that directs patients to alert someone if they need any type of assistance,” she said in a statement to the Times Union.
Florida reported 23,335 new COVID-19 cases and eight new deaths on Wednesday, according to CDC data. Over the past few weeks, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has touted the use of Regeneron for early treatment of COVID-19.
“The sooner you get a monoclonal antibody treatment, the more effective it will be at keeping you out of the hospital and saving your life,” DeSantis said in a statement. “We opened additional antibody treatment sites to support Florida hospitals and provide access to critical, early intervention for Floridians. If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with COVID-19, these sites are a great resource to access this therapy.”
To find locations to receive monoclonal antibody treatments, you can visit floridahealthcovid19.gov. To make an appointment at a state site, visit this patient portal. To find other monoclonal antibody sites, visit the National Infusion Center Association’s website.