Tampa virologist says COVID-19 re-infection is possible, but not yet carefully studied

Florida's peak now expected in late August
Posted at 7:09 AM, Jul 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-23 07:46:02-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Doctors from around the world have been studying COVID-19 and one Tampa expert is providing more information on Florida's timeline, and the possibility of getting re-infected with the virus based on the latest data.

Virologist and Associate Professor for the Department of Internal Medicine at USF Health, Dr. Michael Teng, says there is some anecdotal evidence that people are able to get infected with COVID-19 twice.

He says there hasn’t been a careful study on it yet so doctors don’t know exactly how rare it is, but it is possible.

“I’ve seen reports, case reports, so single patient reports, of somebody having been infected in early March and then again coming back in June and being re-infected with SARS-Coronavirus-2,” said Teng.

Teng says the data model that experts have been using shows that we will peak with COVID-19 cases in Florida sometime in late August.

“Whether that’s true or not also depends on what we do about it. Because if we continue not to social distance, not to wear masks, things like that then we have the possibility of increasing infections rather than decreasing infections,” said Teng.

Teng says we are still in the first wave, and that after the peak we’ll eventually go into the second wave.

“Until we reach the peak and then come down from the peak, that’s when we can actually start thinking about a second wave but right now that’s not even anywhere in our near future,” said Teng. “So next time around when people start getting infected again and then it’ll peak again,” he added.

According to Teng, this cycle will continue until we reach herd immunity.

Experts say the reason they’re working to get a vaccine so quickly is because it’s an artificial way to rapidly develop herd immunity rather than waiting for everyone to get infected.

Teng says the vaccine trials are going very fast and in the past few days there have been some different trials that have had some positive results.

“All these four that we’ve heard in press seem to be safe and they actually seem to induce a little bit of an immune response. What we don’t know is whether that immune response is sufficient to protect against the virus,” Teng said.

According to Teng, there has to be a large trial to see if it’s actually effective. He says there’s a large trial with 30,000 people starting later this month. If it goes well, he predicts we could have those results around November.

However, according to Teng, the next hurdle would be production and getting enough doses for everyone.

“You can have maybe hundreds of millions of doses, which sounds like a lot until you realize that we have 300 something million people in the United States. And if we’re trying to get to 70% herd immunity, 100 million doses is not going to cut it,” said Teng.