FARGO — A new development in the metro could be a game-changer when it comes to treating some people just diagnosed with COVID-19.

Sanford Health says it is one of the first in the country to launch an outpatient therapy center here in Fargo, where high-risk COVID-19 patients can get antibody treatments.

Sanford's Center for Digestive Health in Fargo will be the new home to the Outpatient Therapy Center. They will be offering the treatment in order to keep patients from ending up in the growing COVID-19 unit at Sanford's downtown location.

"The people treated with the antibody, (have) a 72% reduction in hospitalizations and we have really been waiting for options for treating people as outpatients," said Sanford Health's Chief Medical Officer Dr. Doug Griffin. "Any reduction in hospitalizations would be great (to) free up the hospital beds."

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Reducing the number of patients at already stressed hospitals is the main reason for the center. Eli Lily just got emergency approval from the FDA to allow access to the antibody treatment, which will be available as a one-time use, to those over 65 who are positive and have a chronic condition.

"We are very excited about this and look forward to see what the impact will have," Griffin said.

Those who test positive for the coronavirus will have a nurse or doctor contact them within 24 hours to figure out if they are eligible for the antibody treatment.