The South Dakota Department of Health confirmed 38 more South Dakotans have died due to COVID-19.

That brings the total number of deaths in South Dakota since the pandemic started to more than 1,000. Of those, more than 800 victims were over the age of 70.

An experimental antibody treatment that received emergency approval from the FDA last month for use in high-risk COVID-19 patients, may be the key to stopping the high number of deaths in nursing homes due to the coronavirus.

In this edition of COVID-19 Beyond the Numbers, we have the story of one nursing home giving the therapy to coronavirus positive residents, which just became available to the health systems in our state a little more than a week ago.

Last month we brought you the story of a local judge who took part in Avera Health’s Regeneron study. At the time, the experimental antibody cocktail didn’t have FDA approval yet. However, in emergency actions last month, both Regeneron and Bamlanivimab, or B-Mab for short, which is made by a different company, both became available to treat high-risk patients.

Bormann Manor is the nursing home on Avera St. Benedict’s campus in Parkston, where four residents received Bamlanivimab antibody infusion for COVID-19

The Avera St. Benedict Health Center in Parkston, which includes a nursing home, recently received its first shipment of the new B-Mab antibody drug, which is a one-time IV infusion. Four residents who had just been diagnosed with COVID-19 qualified for the treatment.

“Previously our high-risk patients, we had to kind of cross our fingers and just hope for the best. We didn’t really have any treatments we could offer, whereas now we have something we can actively give to hopefully reduce the risk for our patients and reduce the chance of developing that severe COVID, which everyone is really concerned about,” Dr. Paul Berndt said.

The antibody cocktail is only for patients with high-risk factors, such as age and preexisting conditions. Currently, it’s only approved for patients early on in their diagnosis.

“So far there’s been a lot of optimism from patients and families for this treatment. Everyone wants to do everything they can to prevent getting ill from COVID,” Dr. Berndt said.

B-Mab is being used in many health settings, not just at nursing homes. Dr. Chad Thury is an Avera family practice physician who is now offering it to his high-risk patients who test positive for COVID-19.

“The long term thing, what we expect to see is that we’re going to start to see decreased hospitalization numbers, decreased ER visits, patients who won’t need to be placed on oxygen at home, through our home care transitions programs. That’s kind of expectations and what I talk with patients about, as far as why I would recommend them getting the product.’

Dr. Chad Thury, Avera Health

With outbreaks at many nursing homes across the state, this one in Parkston is grateful to now have something to offer its residents that looks promising.

Kenencke: Do you see this as a way to save lives in nursing homes? Are you optimistic about that?
Dr. Berndt: We’re optimistic that this is something we can actively do to protect our patients and try to reduce the risk and keep them as healthy as possible.

Dr. Berndt says it’s still too soon to tell how well the antibody treatment is working for residents, but results should be clear within the next few weeks.

There is always a slight risk of side effects with any infusion, but so far, Avera St. Benedict’s in Parkston says its residents haven’t had any issue tolerating the treatment.

Bamlanivimab Fact Sheet