By Alan Gionet

AURORA (CBS4) – It was a really rough Christmas for Jason and Stephanie Mirault.

“I already have lung issues so when I heard COVID I was the thought of people that get it real bad and then I was like, ‘Oh I’m in real trouble’ being that I already take an inhaler and stuff,” said Jason who deals with COPD and chronic bronchitis.

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They don’t know where they got it, but Jason’s symptoms showed up on Dec. 18.

“Then I started getting symptoms on the 23rd,” said Stephanie, an RN. “A sore throat and cold-like symptoms, so I decided on the 24th to go ahead and get in and get tested because I am in the medical field and I wanted to make sure that I didn’t expose any of my patients because they’re all very vulnerable and at risk.”

More bad news.

At the clinic where Jason got his diagnosis, they didn’t offer much help or advice, telling him only that if he had breathing troubles, get to the hospital. He was amazed that the did OK with the disease. They jokingly call his case “cold-vid.” But it’s nothing to mess around with, he agrees.

Stephanie took a turn for the worse. She had gone through an operation only a couple weeks before and her immune system may have been down. She started feeling really poorly.

“I couldn’t taste anything and couldn’t smell anything. The body aches chills, fever, diarrhea…”

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Her oxygen level started to drop. She went to an ER.

“Once they started me on the steroids treatment I totally turned a corner. And today was the first day that I started to feel kind of normal.”

In 2021, as vaccines begin to take effect, there are hopes that the populations of at-risk patients in hospitals will drop. Drugs being used now on the very sick might become more available for others.

“If the drugs become more available then they can be used more widely in people mild to moderate COVID,” said Dr. Thomas Campbell, UCHealth’s chief clinical research officer.

Stephanie got Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid used to decrease the inflammation that can lead to death in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

“We know that that works very well in preventing the worst outcome, which is death,” said Dr. Campbell.

Other drugs like remdesevir are also showing positive results on hospitalized patients. There are also monoclonal antibody drugs that are showing positive effects, though earlier in the disease progression.

“The monocolonal antibodies that you’ve heard about have been engineered in the laboratory to bind to the spike protein. So people who haven’t developed antibodies yet, that type of antibody might be useful in helping them recover faster,” said Dr. Campbell.

Pres. Donald Trump was able to get remdesevir and a monoclonal antibody cocktail made by Regeneron soon after his diagnosis at a government run medical facility. Another is the Eli Lilly drug, Bamlanivimab. The drugs are been given through an emergency use authorization by the Food and Drug Administration. Supplies are limited, but as production increases and as there are more people vaccinated, it’s possible they may be freed up for use more commonly among those at less risk who develop the disease.

There is a cost-benefit factor, notes Dr. Campbell. The drugs are given via I.V.

“Ideally what we want is an oral agent. Something that can be taken by pill form,” he noted.

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But those drugs are still in testing phases. Ultimately, the answer will be multi-pronged, but the vaccine may be the best answer says Dr. Campbell.

“I would hope that everybody would be vaccinated and we won’t need those drugs at all.”

Alan Gionet