St. Louis City scrambles to reopen COVID antibody center after state cuts funding

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ST. LOUIS — St. Louis health officials are looking to open a new COVID-19 antibody infusion center after the facility on the city’s northside recently shut down due to funding cuts.

In late August, Missouri Gov. Mike Parson announced $15 million would go toward setting up infusion centers throughout the state to provide monoclonal antibody treatment to COVID-19 patients. One of the six centers opened in North St. Louis but closed after the state ended funding.

Health Commissioner Dr. Fredrick Echols said the center helped around 200 people in the two months it was open. He called the center’s closure “unfortunate.”

“I think it’s unfortunate. We know that the City of St Louis has been disproportionately impacted by COVID- 19,” said Echols. “We’ve got to make sure we’ve got services available for our population.”

Echols said the city has allocated $500,000 for a new infusion center, which would remain open through the spring of 2022. The location of the new facility remains undecided, but Echols said the highest need is in the African American community.

“We know that African Americas have accounted for roughly 60% of the cases and 60% of the deaths,” said Echols. “Since April of this year, African Americans have consistently accounted for a little more than 70% of COVID-19 cases each month.”

The City of St. Louis had partnered with Affinia Healthcare to set up the recently-shuttered infusion center.

Affinia’s senior vice president, Dr. Kendra Holmes, said it’s essential to have a center up and running as soon as possible for the sake of saving lives from COVID-19.

“Again, it was very unfortunate,” said Holmes. “We were very grateful for the two months that we were able to help lots of people, but there’s definitely a need to continue this funding statewide.”

Holmes said since the northside infusion center is closed, Affinia has been referring people to BJC Hospital for treatment.

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