Immokalee doctor works to curb COVID-19 spread in community

Reporter: Dannielle Garcia Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
Dr. Antonio Gonzalez. Credit: WINK News.

Hospitals and clinics in Southwest Florida are struggling as the coronavirus surges, but it’s the small community clinics that really need help.

We spoke to a doctor at an Immokalee clinic, and limited resources for patients are making things more difficult.

Most people in Immokalee live in small homes with family and friends. They don’t have enough money more added costs, so when they get sick, they try to power through because they can’t afford to miss work. That’s not good when you’re trying to contain a contagious virus.

But Dr. Antonio Gonzalez is trying.

“The numbers of infection of by COVID-19 are increasing, but at a very rapid speed,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez runs the Community Medical Care Center in Immokalee. He’s tired. His staff is tired, but they can’t turn people away.

“Ninety-five percent of these patients are not vaccinated,” Gonzalez said. “I sent a patient to a Physician Regional in Naples. And I know that the patient got intubated as soon as the patient got over there.”

But there is some encouraging news: According to the CDC, 26% of the vaccine in the past two weeks have gone to Hispanic people.

In Immokalee, drug maker Merck is running a clinical trial on the drug Molnupiravir. The drug has two possible uses — to help patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms and to prevent it from spreading through families.

The FDA has not approved the drug, but Merck claims the clinical trial results are promising. In June, the federal government agreed to buy more than one million doses as soon as the FDA approves it for use.

“If you get infected with this, but the rest of your family is not infected, you know, we can treat the rest of the family with a medication, and that way, we can prevent the rest of the family getting infected,” Gonzalez said.

MORE: Merck Announces Supply Agreement with U.S. Government for Molnupiravir, an Investigational Oral Antiviral Candidate for Treatment of Mild to Moderate COVID-19

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