By Mike Kruzman & Jon King /

One of the top doctors at St. Joseph Mercy Livingston in Howell is speaking about the recent COVID surge and the new antibody treatment clinic they are launching.

Dr. Varsha Moudgal is the Associate Chief Medical Officer and top infectious disease expert at St. Joe Livingston. The number of patients with COVID there has “significantly gone up” in the past week. Moudgal said that while the numbers go through some flux, Thursday morning they had 21 admitted patients with another 4 in the ER awaiting admission. She says they are seeing a larger volume of individuals with the disease coming in, but they are only admitting those in the worst condition. According to Becker Hospital Review, they are at 100% bed occupancy, as of November 10th.

Of those 21 in the Howell hospital, 17 are completely unvaccinated while one person had one dose. Moudgal says the vaccinated patients that were admitted have several underlying conditions.

She said they have a variety of options to help patients, including a forthcoming monoclonal antibody clinic. St. Joe’s has partnered with Livingston County EMS and the Livingston County Health Department to get this infusion clinic ready to go at their site.

The Food and Drug Administration’s website states that monoclonal antibodies are laboratory-made proteins that, when infused, are directed against the spike proteins of the COVID virus, blocking its attachment and entry into human cells. Dr. Moudgal says that they are an option for individuals that have other illnesses, have not been vaccinated, and don’t have adequate antibodies to prevent them from getting COVID.

Moudgal said that patients can’t just come in and ask for an infusion appointment, but have to go through an exam first. Still, she said they are hoping to expand those services and availability in order to rise up and meet community needs. Moudgal reiterated, however, that monoclonal antibody infusions are a treatment, and that it is still better to take preventative measures against the disease. She said that while the infusions are an important tool to have in their arsenal, she feels the most important thing the community can do is to continue in the things that they know work. Those are vaccinations, boosters, and masking. With cold weather and the busy holiday season before us, Dr. Moudgal says, now more than ever, we have to get back to what works.

Another side effect of the surge is that St. Joe’s has postponed elective surgeries for those that require an inpatient bed for a few days. The hospital, however, is working with sister hospitals to help these individuals out, and usually can accommodate them within 48 hours. Patients with procedures that are mandatory and/or time-sensitive for their healthcare outcome are still being performed.

Of the staff at St. Joe’s, Dr. Moudgal says they have been working really hard for a really long period of time and are fatigued. She said the majority feel a sense of sorrow when they see unvaccinated individuals having a difficult time with “sometimes not good outcomes,” when it could have been prevented.

You can hear the complete interview with Dr. Moudgal, who was a special guest on WHMI’s Viewpoint, by Clicking Here.