By Alan Gionet

DENVER (CBS4)– Will Stanton is heading back to work as a photographer. Only a few weeks ago he was plenty worried about COVID19.

“I was at dinner one night and somebody was sick behind us and they were just too close and I was the one who was too close.”

(credit: CBS)

On Nov. 23 he woke up with congestion and a slight headache. For Will, who’s had medical challenges with viruses before, he did not want coronavirus. He has diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Turns out, that made him just the right candidate for a new treatment. After calling in to UCHealth the following Saturday for a virtual health visit, a nurse called back.

“I felt taking action, even with an experimental drug, (was) better than not taking action and then waiting to see what happened.”

The drug is bamlanivimab, a recent FDA-approved monoclonal antibody treatment. Similar in some ways to other treatments because it does not kill the virus, but messes with its ability to multiply.

“It’s a little bit different of a mechanism in that it actually again still affects replication,” said Dr. Michelle Barron, infectious disease specialist at UCHealth in Aurora. “But it binds to the part of the proteins on the surface of the virus itself.”

(credit: CBS)

It interferes in the virus’ ability to attack cells.

Doctors are doing better in treating the coronavirus, said Barron. A count of cases from March through April compared with September through mid-November told them hospital stays have dropped from an average of 11.5 days to about 6. And deaths among in-patients in the UCHealth Hospital system are about half the 12+% they were in the spring. It’s similar all over the country said Barron.

Treatments are evolving, “I think all of these drugs there’s those nuances that it’s not going to be a one size fits all.”

Bamlanivimab is best when given outpatient to people at higher risk, but early on before the onset of serious symptoms. Will got his treatment a week after his first symptoms.

“The way it was explained to me was the I was at the point of it going full on.”

He went into the hospital in Colorado Springs and was on an IV drip. It soon made a difference.

(credit: Will Stanton)

“It was literally that day I got the infusion and, like I said, walking out of there, I could start to feeling something changing.”

The drive home to Denver was enough time to really feel the impact.

“Coming back home I could actually feel myself when I cough, I was actually coughing up phlegm. It felt like where as before, it was a dry cough and then now it’s actually producing something and effective… That night I went to bed totally fine, and I slept great through the night ever since then.”

UCHealth got 650 doses of the drug as manufacturer Eli Lilly begins to distribute it around the country. It adds to an arsenal of medications and techniques as doctors learn more about treating COVID-19. That includes treatments like remdesivir which also slows replication, and steroids, which cut inflammation that led to many deaths.

But getting to patients early is often very critical says Dr. Barron.

“Once the horse is out of the barn sometimes it’s really hard to get it back in and I think this is why they’re finding a lot of these treatments, if you can capture it sort of before it has progressed to where they’re so sick and having all the complications, that they tend to do better.”

The treatments though won’t stop the disease, “I think the vaccine is going to be the way we beat the disease. The treatment will help people stay alive and be potentially less debilitated by this, but no I don’t think that the treatments that we have right now will be able to stop what we’re seeing in terms of threat.”

Alan Gionet