DeSantis discusses COVID-19 antibodies to give access to loved ones in nursing homes, but is that safe?

Gov. Ron DeSantis discussing use of COVID-19 antibodies at a roundtable discussion in Jacksonville Aug. 4, 2020. Credit: Screenshot, Florida Channel.

Trying to provide access to vulnerable loved ones, Gov. Ron DeSantis said Tuesday that family members who have COVID-19 antibodies should be able to visit their relatives in nursing homes and long-term care facilities during the pandemic.

Whether those antibodies would work for now or months from now to ward off the disease is not entirely clear, according to medical and public health information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Mayo Clinic and the American Medical Association (AMA).

“We currently don’t have enough information yet to say whether someone will definitely be immune and protected from reinfection if they have antibodies to the virus,” the CDC stated in a May 28 guidance document.

“Antibodies are proteins produced by your immune system in response to an infection,” according to the Mayo Clinic.

The clinic’s undated overview of antibodies states: “People who have had COVID-19 or tested positive for antibodies should not assume they’re protected from getting COVID-19 infection again until infectious disease experts learn more about these antibodies. Researchers are trying to determine if antibodies provide some immunity to the COVID-19 virus, what the level of protection is and how long immunity may last.”

More information is likely to come as various medical and public health officials study the COVID antibodies.

First Lady Casey DeSantis at roundtable discussion on health and mental health in Jacksonville. Credit: Florida Channel.

The issue of antibodies came up during a roundtable discussion Tuesday, with the governor, First Lady Casey DeSantis, state officials and others.

The group talked about the heartbreaking situation for families who have not been able to visit their loved ones – even during their dying days — in nursing homes and long-term care facilities because of COVID-19.

The state had enforced numerous measures, such as suspending visitation to the facilities, since mid-March. Now, the various officials and groups are trying to figure out ways to provide access for families to see their loved ones in person at the facilities.

“Throughout the last 4 1/2 half months they have not had the ability to have family members visiting them. They’ve not had the type of human contact which really, really makes a difference to people,” DeSantis said. “That human cost, the emotional cost of having these measures in place to try to limit the spread of COVID, those costs are profound.”

“One of the things I think we can do, is, any family member who has COVID antitbodies should be allowed to go to visit the facilities,” DeSantis said. “I mean, if you test positive for that, we know that confers a certain level of immunity. Most people think about six months at a minimum. We have not had anyone be reinfected of course anywhere in the world thus far.”

He added: “I would be comfortable saying..if you do have those COVID-19 antibodies, you should be able to go in and see your family member.”

DeSantis said, “we may work on that and get moving on that.”

He said that, “If families have antibodies…we obviously need to be recognizing that and how powerful that could be.”

DeSantis also felt comfortable – with the use of Protective Protective Equipment (PPE) —  with giving hugs to family members.

“Look, I’m comfortable with the PPE. Hell. Hug ‘em. I mean come on,” the governor said.

“If you have PPE on and you hug and you don’t sneeze or do something…you’re going to be fine… I think you can do that. That would be very meaningful.”