Immunity passes that tell whether a person has the antibodies for coronavirus are an idea whose time should never come. The corona-passes or "passports" would allow a special class of citizens to travel freely, dine at trendy restaurants and enjoy all the perks of being corona-free. Soon we'll truly be the haves and have-nots -- those who have the coronavirus antibody and those that haven't yet gotten the virus. If issued passes or ID cards or special apps, the haves will be given privileges that the have-nots can only dream of -- like going into Starbucks, getting out of airplanes first, going to concerts and more importantly, getting a chance to hug their loved ones. Don't you hate those people already?
Slate is making its essential coronavirus coverage free for all readers. Subscribe to support our journalism. After a weeklong hiatus, John Oliver returned to his "Great White Void" Sunday night to discuss the Trump administration's premature plans to reopen the country and what it would take to actually do so safely. While Jared Kushner has described the federal government's response to COVID-19, which has allowed the United States to lead the world in deaths, as "a great success story," and predicted that the country will be "really rockin' again" by July, the Last Week Tonight host emphasized that one of the administration's greatest failures concerns the thing we'd most need to return to something closer to normalcy: testing. While there's broad scientific consensus that widely available testing is key to reopening, the testing shortage has been one of the most devastating and confusing aspects of the pandemic in America, so Oliver spent the bulk of the segment recapping why that's the case, from unreliable tests to manufacturing errors to slow government response times.
The jury was still out on whether a one-time infection to COVID-19 can lead to immunity, from contracting the disease a second time, among survivors. The World Health Organization (WHO) doesn't think so. On April 24, it declared, "There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection. SARS-CoV-2 or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 is the virus that causes COVID-19. However, a new study out of China released Thursday, seemed to address WHO's contention about the absence of studies concerning antibody immunity. The new study, "Antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in patients with COVID-19," contended patients who have recovered from the coronavirus eventually produce antibodies to the virus. This reaction suggested they might be capable of warding off reinfection. Antibodies are blood proteins produced by the immune system to combat viruses, and might prevent future infections. The study was published in the journal, Nature Medicine, and was conducted by a team of researchers at Chongquing Medical University led by Dr Ai-Long Huang. U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) Director Dr Francis Collins said the study involved 285 Chinese individuals hospitalized with severe COVID-19. Surprisingly, researchers found all 285 had developed SARS-CoV-2 specific antibodies within two to three weeks of their first symptoms. He said these findings suggested the immune systems of people that survive COVID-19 were primed to recognize SARS-CoV-2 and possibly thwart a second infection. Dr Collins, however, warned more follow-up research is needed to determine just how protective these antibodies are and for how long. The study put it this way: "We report acute antibody responses to SARS-CoV-2 in 285 patients with COVID-19.
Starting in the fall of 2016 and continuing into 2018, researchers at Columbia University in Manhattan began collecting nasal swabs from 191 children, teachers, and emergency workers, asking them to record when they sneezed or had sore throats. The point was to create a map of common respiratory viruses and their symptoms, and how long people who recovered stayed immune to each one. The research included four coronaviruses, HKU1, NL63, OC42, and C229E, which circulate widely every year but don't get much attention because they only cause common colds. But now that a new coronavirus in the same broad family, SARS-CoV-2, has the world on lockdown, information about the mild viruses is among our clues to how the pandemic might unfold. What the Columbia researchers now describe in a preliminary report is cause for concern.
"There are so many things that we can learn and research, if we plan it correctly," he said. Asking so many citizens to submit to something as invasive as a blood test could seem a tall order in a country where a digital-surveillance initiative to identify coronavirus patients using smartphone location data set off political protests and lawsuits. Many Israelis, citing privacy concerns, also declined to download a government-sponsored app that was designed to help them avoid fellow citizens who had tested positive.