Two weeks after Thanksgiving, Florida is seeing the much-predicted increase in coronavirus cases and hospitalizations -- both of which are up 20% since Thanksgiving Day.
While nowhere near as swift or large as during the summer surge, hospitals are seeing a gradual increase in demand.
But that burden is being lessened at Miami Beach's Mount Sinai Medical Center, in part, by the use of a therapeutic approved just last month for certain high-risk COVID patients.
And when the monoclonal antibody treatment was finally ready to administer, the hospital did not have to look far for its first eligible patient: Chief Nursing Officer Wendy Stuart.
Four weeks ago, she was infected by a visitor to her home.
"The first time we let someone in our bubble, we got sick," she said, describing symptoms of "massive headache" and "body aches."
After testing positive, she realized she had an opportunity to become Mount Sinai's Patient A with the newly approved treatment.
"We had received our Eli Lilly antibodies here the day before and then when I tested positive, I was like, 'Wow. I'm the perfect person to be the first,'" she recalled.
She had just turned 65, so she qualified under that minimum age criteria.
Others who qualify for the monoclonal antibodies are people with kidney disease, diabetes or suppressed immune systems. People aged 55 or older who have certain heart or lung issues are also eligible for the treatment, which can be administered in three hours as an outpatient at Mount Sinai.
"I started feeling better the next day for sure," Stuart said. "My headache was almost gone. My body aches were gone."
And, like the nearly 60 other patients who've received the therapeutic at her hospital so far, she had no severe side affects.
"It's one of the major advances we’ve had in the last 10 months that we can now provide outpatient therapy and treatments to prevent hospitalizations, to prevent people from getting worse," said dr. Robert Goldszer, Mount Sinai's chief medical officer. "It’s very important."
It also help keep the hospital in-patient census lower because those who get it are less likely to require hospitalization.
"The exciting thing to me is this basically shortens the length of time you feel bad, shortens the duration, shortens the likelihood of you infecting someone else and decreases the likelihood you’re going to come into the hospital," Goldszer said.
To make monclonal antibodies, scientists screen through the natural antibodies that bind to the virus and prevent it from finding new cells to invade and use as factories for new viral particles.
They identify the antibodies that form the strongest bonds and the recreate them in the lab.
They key is to seek treatment early in the course of the disease -- as soon as symptoms are present.
If one waits too long and the disease progresses, the patient could be ineligible for the treatment.
Goldszer encourages anyone who needs medical attention during a pandemic for any problem -- whether COVID-related or not -- to seek it, noting the Mount Sinai emergency room is open and has plenty of staff to provide care, while keeping COVID patients separate from patients in the rest of the facility.
"People that need to come to the hospital should come to the hospital, " he said. "The people that need to be here -- if you have chest pain, strokes, need your cancer screening -- you need to come."