Positive COVID-19 cases in the community are facts of life. Since March, the virus — and trying to avoid and limit the spread — has altered all aspects of life, work, and interactions.
Thousands in our community have already caught coronavirus. And until a vaccine is widely available and utilized, even more can become infected.
So what happens after recovering from the virus — following initial isolation, quarantining, and eventually testing negative for COVID?
Dr. Joel Solis of Valley Medical Arts Clinic stressed caution to the community over staying safe during the pandemic.
The clinic has been a big part of the COVID vaccine trials, enrolling over 700 participants to take part in the “double-blind” trials, which means subjects don’t know whether they received a placebo or vaccine.
Solis said that after their initial infection ends, COVID patients shouldn’t assume immunity to the virus.
“We have to be a little careful from a standpoint of perspective,” he said. “If you’re asking me about the COVID patient that was positive in April or May … we know it’s possible for them to be reinfected because we’ve seen it happen in other parts of the country.”
Getting over COVID-19 isn’t a magic elixir that provides protection. Research shows it doesn’t come with long-term immunity. Patients who have recovered from COVID might have some protection for a limited amount of time, but that’s not something Solis says people should rely on too much.
“It depends how long the antibodies that are made against COVID lasts,” Solis said. “The question is, how long do they last in an individual? I think what we’re all learning is … anytime I talk COVID, I like to preface ‘at present time we believe.’”
He says this is extremely important with a novel virus aided by people’s behavior and misinformation.
“Coming out and saying we know something for sure with a virus like this is difficult for me. I don’t like to mislead anyone with either false hope or false information,” Solis said. “We’re all different and we can’t say everyone got the same virus, the same viral load, the same type of infection. So clearly not all of us have the same type of post protection.”
As a healthcare provider, he is also an important player in the battle for information. He stressed that being safe during this pandemic applies to everyone.
“It’s not safe to change the parameters that we’re living our lives today,” Solis said. “Which is wearing your mask, social distancing, and washing your hands. That will continue until we feel like it’s safer out there from a vaccine perspective or COVID treatment. Being smart about where we’re going, where you have been, and where we’re going next. You don’t want to be that vector in case you didn’t adhere to the proper protocols.”
While the pandemic precautions have been in place a long time, they are still important and manageable steps to promote community health.
“The right thing is not as hard as people make it sound — masks, washing hands, and distancing,” Solis said. “It is difficult because you have to think about where you’re at.”
One recommendation that has also endured is the suggestion for formerly positive patients to donate plasma. He said COVID has resulted in a surge of research and discoveries.
“We’re doing research from a preventative aspect with a vaccine,” Solis said. “The same type of work that [Doctors Hospital at Renaissance] did with studying the convalescent plasma early on. They formed an alliance with a lot of the local hospitals. If you look at where we are today and you look at their efforts in getting people to donate and receive the plasma at the important time, we now know how to utilize it even better. So, yes we do still want people who have had COVID to inquire with a facility about donating and being a part of that.”
Even with the promise of a vaccine rolling out, safety protocols are still key in helping our community from COVID.
“What’s going to end up happening if you send the wrong message that they have protection then that individual might not wear their mask,” Solis said. “The bottom line recommendation has not changed — regardless of if you’ve had COVID or not.”