Novel coronavirus. COVID-19 is known by a few other names, including novel coronavirus. For the purposes of this discussion of the fact that some people who contract a COVID-19 infection and either are not fully recovering from it or are becoming re-infected in short speed, the alternate designation of COVID-19 as a novel coronavirus is important. With that noted, and explained in greater detail in a moment, we take a look at persistent COVID-19 infections and situations in which patients are becoming re-infected with this coronavirus in a very short amount of time.

What We Know About Immunity to COVID-19

What we do know about COVID-19 are these primary factors:

  • COVID-19 is highly contagious
  • A person can become infected with COVID-19 via person to person contact 
  • An individual can also become infected with COVID-19 by coming into contact with contaminated surfaces and objects
  • Some percentage of people never demonstrate any symptoms of a COVID-19 infection
  • An infected person can pass the virus to others, or shed them on surfaces and objects, whether or not than individual shows any symptoms
  • Some people have only mild symptoms
  • Somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 percent of people infected with COVID-19 will require significant medical assistance, including possible hospitalization
  • Many people do develop immunity to viruses
  • Immunity can be very long term 
  • In other instances, immunity to a particular virus may only last for a relatively short amount of time
  • There are no certain answers when considering the issue of immunity when it comes to COVID-19

What We Don’t Know About COVID-19 Probably Outpaces What We Understand

Keeping up with information about COVID-19 issued by esteemed agencies like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is rather like watching the time and temperature indicators in front of banks before the dawn of the digital age: always changing. The bottom line is this: COVID-19 medically is known as a “novel” coronavirus. 

The term novel applies to a virus or a strain of a virus that has never before infected human beings. In the case of the COVID-19 pandemic, humans have been infected by coronaviruses in the past – and are infected by other such viruses today, in addition to COVID-19. For example, potentially deadly SARS and MERS are both examples of coronaviruses. Indeed, four other coronaviruses that aren’t deadly are the underlying causes of about 40 percent of all common colds in Southern California, across the state, indeed around the world. 

Perhaps you can think of coronaviruses in comparison to cats in the animal kingdom. Lions, tigers, leopards, mountain lions: deadly. House cats: unpredictable and sometimes unpleasant, but not deadly. These cats are all part of the same broader family of animal species, they have some very similar traits, but they are also markedly different. 

Because COVID-19 is a novel – new – type of an existing virus, (new derivation of the coronavirus), there is a great deal that scientists, researchers, medical personnel, and others are learning about this pathogen in real-time. There certainly are some similarities between COVID-19 and all of the other coronaviruses. However, during this early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic, infectious disease experts also realize there appear to be some major differences between SARS-CoV2 (yet another name for COVID-19) and other coronaviruses.

Simply put, what we don’t know about COVID-19 at this time probably outpaces what we are do understand with certainty. We’re probably assuming some facts that will be disproven later on. This is perhaps nowhere more evident than when it comes to a broader discussion of immunity to COVID-19.

What May Happen After a COVID-19 Infection: Reinfection, Prolonged Infection, No Immunity, Short-Term Immunity

An overarching hope associated with the COVID-19 pandemic is that most people will develop an immunity to the virus after once being infected. Because this is a novel or new virus for humans, infectious disease specialists as of yet do not know with certainty whether there will be long-lasting immunity for most people. 

There are some disparate data surrounding what happens to people following a COVID-19 infection. The information that has been collected to date includes:

  • Some people that recover from a COVID-19 infection do appear to have an immune response. The issue then becomes how long will that immunity last? As mentioned previously, there are viruses in which the immune response virtually is permanent. There are other viruses in which immunity is short-lived.
  • Some people infected with COVID-19 may have a short-lived immune response but have ended up being infected following an initial infection. This may mean that they recovered and became re-infected (as the result of no immune response and encountering the virus again. This may also mean that a person has a very short-lived immune response and became re-infected. It could also be the result of a very weak (useless) immune response, followed by a new infection.
  • Finally, there is at least some evidence that a person infected with COVID-19 gets through the symptoms, becomes asymptomatic but continues to carry an active infection. 

Research regarding COVID-19 immunity will continue apace. This area of research rapidly is becoming one of the most important aspects associated with addressing this pandemic.

A Vaccine Is Likely to Come

On a related note, numerous pharmaceutical companies, research laboratories, and the National Institute of Health are all at work attempting to develop an effective COVID-19 vaccine. While infectious disease experts and researchers are optimistic about the development of a vaccine, trials involving humans are only now beginning (and they have commenced faster than typically is the case). 

Personal Tactics to Keep Safe During the COVID-19 Pandemic After Infection

Because of the uncertainty associated with the matter of immunity, it is vital that all people remain diligent when it comes to physical distancing and thorough hygiene, especially as it relates to hand washing. 

Business Safety During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Businesses of all types need to remain diligent in guarding against COVID-19 contamination at their locations in part because of the current uncertainty associated with immunity. As part of that effort, businesses need to appropriately avail themselves of a professional, reputable COVID-19 cleaning company to assist in coronavirus contamination prevention and remediation. 

In conclusion, writing in Forbes, digital health expert Bruce Y. Lee made a pithy and accurate statement about the status of people who appear to have recovered from a COVID-19 infection:

“(I)f you do get exposed to the virus and recover, don’t view it as a free pass to start hugging strangers, digging your fingers deep into your nose like you are looking for pocket change, and licking doorknobs. Keep doing what everyone else should be doing such as social distancing, washing your hands frequently and thoroughly, keeping your filthy fingers from gravitating towards your face, and actively disinfecting surfaces, objects, and (objects) that you have in your (home, business, or other location). Just because you survived the first infection, doesn’t necessarily mean that future exposures and possible infections will end up OK.”