Yesterday, in a press conference, President Trump recognized that the coronavirus pandemic is becoming worse and would like to continue to do so. “It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better,” he said. He also endorsed the use of masks, which is a complete reversal on the stance he’s taken since the beginning of the pandemic.
Sadly, the President isn’t wrong about the pandemic getting worse. The number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 is rising and rapidly approaching the levels the country saw in April. Some officials have tried to claim that it’s because there has been an increase in testing. On the contrary, other officials call attention to the fact that increases in testing don’t send people to the hospital, so even if testing was increased, there shouldn’t be a surge in hospitalizations. Regrettably, it’s not just positive test results and hospital admissions that are rising, so are deaths.
The President’s announcement comes as new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that only a small amount of people in the country have antibodies to the virus. This indicates that a good portion of the population is still at risk of contracting it. Also, based on the antibodies numbers, the agency estimates the rate of actual infection to be two to 13 times higher than what’s reported. Despite this assumption, officials warn that we’re nowhere near the 60-70% of people with antibodies to achieve herd immunity.
Unfortunately, new research from the University of California, Los Angeles, is showing that antibodies may only last a few months in individuals who had a mild case of the disease. This does raise questions as to the durability of any vaccine that is developed. However, scientists highlight that this doesn’t necessarily mean you’re not protected because antibodies are only part of the immune system’s response mechanism. It also remembers how to make new antibodies if it’s exposed to the virus again.
As a result of all of the new information, the CDC has updated its guidelines from a test-based strategy to a symptom-based one. For most people with symptoms, they can stop isolating and taking precautions ten days from when the symptoms start and after they’ve not had a fever for 24 hours without using fever-reducing medicines. For individuals who have a serious form of the illness or who are severely immunocompromised, they should isolate for 20 days. One recommendation that wasn’t changed is the need to quarantine for 14 days after exposure since it can take that long for symptoms to appear.