Trump: From ‘super spreader’ to Superman?
Some of President Trump’s enemies have taken to calling him a coronavirus “super spreader.” And they’ve (almost gleefully) recounted the expanding list of positive test results among Republicans in high circles.
But there’s one effect to the coronavirus cause that Trump’s enemies may not have fully grappled with. If current scientific thought holds true, those infected who then recover from COVID-19 could be largely invincible to it in the future — at least for awhile.
Dr. Anthony Fauci of the White House task force on coronavirus raised the immunity possibility in an interview in March. He said he’s “willing to bet anything” that people who recover from the virus are “really protected from reinfection.”
“If this virus acts like every other virus that we know,” Fauci said, “once you get infected, get better, clear the virus, then you’ll have immunity that will protect you against reinfection.”
Although there are still many unknowns, science seems to be pointing in that direction. As the New York Times recently reported: “Scientists … are now starting to see encouraging signs of strong, lasting immunity, even in people who developed only mild symptoms of COVID-19, a flurry of new studies suggests. Disease-fighting antibodies, as well as immune cells called B cells and T cells that are capable of recognizing the virus, appear to persist months after infections have resolved — an encouraging echo of the body’s enduring response to other viruses.”
In fact, reinfection so far is so rare that when it happens, it’s written up in medical journals. In late August, scientists reported “the first confirmed case of a COVID-19 reinfection”: a 33-year-old Hong Kong man. He had a mild infection the first time, according to the reports, and didn’t even know he’d been reinfected months later because he had no symptoms — he found out when he happened to get tested because of travel in Europe. A few other reinfections have been documented.
Even with the occasional outlier, epidemiologist Michael Mina at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health emphasized in an interview that millions of people have contracted coronavirus and what’s important is what happens to the vast majority of them. So far, they seem to be largely protected from a repeat infection.
There are implications for us as a nation. More than 7.7 million people in the U.S. have been diagnosed with COVID-19. If scientists are correct, there are many more who have mild or no symptoms and go undiagnosed. That implies that easily 5 percent of our population could be largely immune today (328 million population, 15 million cases + half diagnosed/half not, 4.5 percent).
How long might immunity last? Nobody yet knows. But if President Trump fully recovers from his illness, his coronavirus risk profile changes, at least on paper. There’s every reason to theorize that he’ll be at lower risk for reinfection. That surely will factor into how he conducts the nation’s business if he wins reelection.
As for Joe Biden? Remaining coronavirus-free right now becomes a double-edged sword. As an older man at higher risk of potential complications, he’ll likely continue to take every reasonable precaution to avoid exposure to the virus. If he wins the presidency, he may have to stay at home more, doing a great deal of business from the protection of the White House. Even if a vaccine hits the market, there would remain some concern in the near term since no vaccine is 100 percent effective.
Whichever way the election turns out, it’s hard to deny that President Trump and today’s other so-called “super spreaders” could become tomorrow’s formidable force of “Supermen” and “Superwomen” in terms of immunity in the uncertain age of coronavirus.
Sharyl Attkisson (@SharylAttkisson) is an Emmy-winning investigative journalist, author of the upcoming “Slanted: How the News Media Taught Us to Love Censorship and Hate Journalism,” the New York Times best-sellers “The Smear” and “Stonewalled,” and host of Sinclair’s Sunday TV program, “Full Measure.”