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CDC reports 'high' community COVID-19 in 16 Colorado counties

The pre-holiday COVID spread comes as the FDA pulled authorization for the sole remaining monoclonal antibody to treat the virus.

COLORADO, USA — There's one fewer tool available to treat COVID-19 as the CDC reports "high" community levels of the virus in more than a dozen Colorado counties, including Boulder County.

The FDA pulled authorization for the last monoclonal antibody available in the United States on Wednesday, ending -- for now -- what was previously one of the most effective treatments available for the coronavirus. It had been recently stymied by new variants. 

"We’ve known for some time that the coronavirus has been rapidly changing," 9NEWS Health Expert Dr. Payal Kohli said. "These new variants are called escape variants because they escape our immunity and they sort of escape these antibody treatments that used to be previously effective."

Kohli said the old treatments just don't work anymore. The lab-made antibodies used to bind to the virus and prevent it from entering cells, but the antibodies don't fit right on the new variants spreading today. 

"The antibodies are really no longer effective," she said. "They're no longer neutralizing or squelching the virus from making copies of itself." 

Kohli said there are still treatments available for the virus, including anti-viral drugs. However, those medications must be given shortly after infection to be effective. 

On Friday, the CDC reported 16 Colorado counties with "high" levels of community COVID-19: Boulder, Broomfield, Fremont, Pueblo, Sedgwick, Phillips, Rio Blanco, Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Mesa, Dolores, Montezuma, San Juan, La Plata and Archuleta.

Kohli expects that number may increase.  

"With the holidays and the travel and the end of the year and all the gatherings that we're having, it's really setting us up for virus to spread itself very, very effectively," Kohli said. 

She said people need to start thinking about mitigation measures again, including wearing masks, testing frequently and getting the booster shot, which is designed to provide protection against the new variants. 

"If you’re planning to get together or travel for Christmas or the few days before, now is the time to go and get boosted, because it takes two weeks after you get that booster to get protection," Kohli said.


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