Health Officials Unsure If COVID-19 Survivors Are Immune
DAVIS COUNTY, Utah – One of the hopeful assumptions about COVID-19 has been that survivors will gain immunity once they have had the virus. But, just this weekend the World Health Organization said there is “no evidence” that COVID-19 survivors are protected from catching the virus again.
Many community leaders look at COVID-19 survivors as those who could get back to work quickly and not pose a risk. One Utah family sure hopes that’s the case. But, they also do not want to make anyone uncomfortable.
“We try to be respectful of other’s boundaries, and their fear levels, and go from there, and just wait for science to catch up,” said Maranda Thompson, who traveled to Florida with her sister, Kati Ventura, and their mom in the second week in March.
“Everything felt really normal out in public,“ said Thompson.
At that time, the virus had yet to arrive in Utah in any positive tests, and there had not been a fatality. Awareness nationally was just starting to build.
“We didn’t really know how big until we had got to Florida,” said Ventura. “Then it was like… pandemonium in Florida.“
Toilet paper and hand sanitizer were selling out.. otherwise,
“People were still at the beach like normal, and restaurants are still open,” she said.
They had a great time. They spent time at the beach and restaurants with everyone else.
“It was right on that edge, before it blew up,” said Thompson.
One day, their mother felt sick with shaking and a feverish feeling. But, she was fine in the morning.
Then, a couple of days before they were ready to leave, Thompson got a cough.
“What if I have COVID? I’ve got to get home,” she said. “I’ve got to get home. So, I loaded myself up with medications and got home.”
When she got home, she stayed away from her kids, and headed straight for the doctor.
Thompson’s COVID-19 test was rejected at the lab, and they never really got an answer as to why. But she’s confident she had COVID-19.
She had a combination of fever and cough for about a week.
“I lost all taste and smell for three days,” she said. Those are now two symptoms of COVID-19 recognized by the CDC.
Her sister tested positive and ended up even sicker.
“I spent 10 full days in bed, wiped out,” said Ventura. “So sick, like I’ve never been sick before.”
Most studies have shown that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies to the virus. This is typical of previous coronaviruses. The WHO, however, now says there is no evidence that provides immunity.
“We don’t make the assumption that anyone is immune,” said state epidemiologist Dr. Angela Dunn.
The Utah Department of Health has advised our leaders that they do not know anything about immunity due to COVID-19, she said.
“There is currently no evidence that any individual does become immune after getting COVID-19 and recovering,” she said.
If the novel coronavirus is similar to other viruses, health leaders may assume that there is some level of immunity, she said. But, they now have evidence from other countries that reinfection is possible.
“Until we really know the impact of developing immunity due to COVID-19, being able to re-open things based on immunity is still a gamble,” said Dr. Dunn.
“Nobody really knows enough about the virus,” said Ventura.
The sisters refer to themselves as the “Immunicorns.” Another sister, who actually contracted the virus independently in Washington state, came up with that name.
“I really like the idea of being immune,” set Thompson. “But, if I got it again, I’m not scared to get it again. I’m more scared of putting my kids in masks and I’m more scared of living like this forever than I am of getting it again.”
Ventura is working from home and careful about keeping her distance when going out for necessities.
“It’s tough,” she said. “I think being fearful, and living in that fear and only going out in masks will make it more difficult for my kids, who are already struggling.“
They said they are very respectful of other people’s boundaries and people who don’t want to be near them. They stayed in quarantine longer than recommended, and keep their distance from people because they don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.
“We were lucky,” said Thompson. “We know we’re lucky that it didn’t take us out.. that it wasn’t worse.”
The WHO will continue to study evidence on antibody responses to the virus to learn more.
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