The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact all facets of our society, but a promising new treatment at Saint John’s Physician Partners Urgent Care is bringing hope where even three months ago there was none.

“Two drugs have been made available by the federal government for treating patients with a positive COVID diagnosis,” says Anita Gorwara, M.D., medical director.

Her staff have been delivering the drugs, REGEN-COV and Bamlanivimab (BAM), via infusion to patients since January. The rapidity of both the creation of an infusion center in the urgent care center, and the effects on patient symptoms shortly after the infusion, have been nothing short of remarkable.

“Our staff was really hit hard by the pandemic last December,” notes Dr. Gorwara.

In addition to a high influx of patients in the urgent care center, caregivers also contracted the virus, meaning colleagues were put into service to cover shifts. The center normally averages 50 to 60 patients per day but from midDecember on, the staff was seeing 120 patients a day.

“We were working 12-hour days in most cases,” Dr. Gorwara notes. “I felt helpless the first ten months of the pandemic when no treatments were yet available to help patients. I was aware that Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank had been treating COVID patients with these drugs since December, with great success,” she adds. “I was extremely passionate about getting these treatments into our urgent care center.”

The difference in patients infused with the drugs is remarkable.

“Patients feel better almost immediately,” says Dr. Gorwara. “Within 15 minutes they can breathe better. They have no more aches and pains.”

As with the roll-out of vaccines, there is a triage process that determines which patients will be infused.

“Our sicker patients get priority, as do those over 65 and patients over 55 with other medical conditions.” The good news is that the more patients who are treated, the more shipments of drugs the urgent care center will receive.

“Within two hours, patients who were close to requiring oxygen at home can be infused and go home with greatly alleviated symptoms,” Dr. Gorwara says. “These drugs have changed how we treat our COVID patients.”