British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is now under quarantine after a meeting with someone who … [+]
Didn’t British Prime Minister Boris Johnson have Covid-19 back in April? That was approximately seven missed haircuts ago for most ordinary people, potentially less for Johnson. So, why oh why then is the 55-year-old Johnson now under quarantine, as the following tweet from him suggested:
After all, aren’t you immune to the Covid-19 coronavirus after you’ve recovered from the infection? Didn’t U.S. President Donald Trump in effect say this after he had Covid-19 when he tweeted “I can’t get it (immune) and can’t give it,” as I described last month for Forbes? That’s assuming that Trump meant the virus and not satisfaction when using the word “it.”
Well, immunity after a Covid-19 coronavirus infection is still sort of like Johnson’s or Trump’s hair. It’s still a bit of a mystery. It seems to exist. However, no one completely knows for sure yet how it works.
Johnson could have been exposed to the virus during a half-hour meeting some British lawmakers on Thursday. Since then, one of those lawmakers ended up testing positive for the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV2). The following tweet threat has a photo of Johnson with Lee Anderson, the member of Parliament from Ashfield who reportedly tested positive for the Covid-19 coronavirus:
In the tweet, MP appears to stand for member of Parliament rather than Monty Python, Melrose Place, or manpack. After the MP tested positive, the National Health Service (NHS) then notified Johnson, who is now quarantining himself, presumably for at least 14 days.
As you may have noticed, Johnson did use the words “self-isolating” instead of “self-quarantining” in his tweet. The “self” is probably correct, unless a madness of marmots (yes, a group of marmots is called a madness) happened to lift Johnson out of his office and carry him to a place where he can be by himself. But the “isolating” is technically not correct, unless he has already tested positive for the virus. Remember, isolation is when you know you have the virus and quarantine is when you could potentially have the virus. A way to remember this is the “I” in isolation can stand for “I’ve got the virus and should be away from everyone for at least 10 days” and the “Q” in quarantine can stand for “quiche, that’s what I need while I am waiting to see if I develop symptoms, have a positive test, or can end quarantine after 14 days.”
Regardless, the concern is that Johnson may have caught the virus even though he already had a rather harrowing bout with the virus over 20 Scaramuccis ago. In the Spring, Covid-19 left Johnson hospitalized and in the intensive care unit (ICU) at St. Thomas’ Hospital in London. It was so severe that Johnson subsequently said, “I owe them my life.” Here is a 1 News segment on Johnson’s hospitalization and one of the nurses who cared for him:
Twenty Scaramuccis is well over 90 days, given that a Scaramucci is only about 10 days. And according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Covid-19 website, “to date, reinfection appears to be uncommon during the initial 90 days after symptom onset of the preceding infection.” This leaves open the possibility of reinfection with the SARS-CoV2, especially after 90 days.
As I have written before for Forbes, there have already been reports of re-infection with the Covid-19 coronavirus occurring. It is still not clear how common this may be, how likely you are to have immunity against the virus after recovering from an infection, and how long immunity may last. So even if you think you have already been infected by the Covid-19 coronavirus, do not “throw away your mask” as Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) seemed to be suggesting here in the video accompanying the following tweet:
Don’t let this give you “Pauls” about what real scientists and public health experts have been saying, that you should continue to social distance and wear face masks. Paul is a Senator and not an expert in pandemic preparedness and response. For now, only throw away your mask when you have another one to replace it. This is likely to continue at least until a safe and effective vaccine is available, potentially even afterwards.
Speaking of vaccines, do the questions about immunity after infection mean that you should lose faith that a vaccine will ever work? No, not necessarily. Comparing vaccine-induced immunity to natural exposure-induced immunity can be like comparing a llama to a zebra. Sure, they have similarities. They both have four legs and may not be the best guests at dinner parties that involve limbo bars. But there can be key differences. For example, if you have a basketball game, a zebra is already dressed like a referee, whereas a llama would have to go shopping for such an outfit. Similarly, your immune system’s response to a vaccine could potentially be stronger and last longer than its response to a natural infection, depending on the formulation of the vaccine and the number of doses given. In general, a vaccine may be more controllable than natural exposure to the virus and thus produce less variable responses from your immune system.
So don’t lose faith that a safe and effective Covid-19 coronavirus vaccine is possible. In the meantime, do what Johnson is apparently doing. Don’t assume that you are immune to virus even if you’ve already had Covid-19. Do not celebrate and throw away your mask unless you are talking about a Lone Ranger mask. Continue to practice social distancing. Continue to wear a face mask when you may have closer contact with others outside your social bubble. Continue to wash your hands and disinfect surfaces. And if you think you’ve been exposed to the virus, quarantine yourself.
The bottom line is during this continuing pandemic be conservative like Johnson, not necessarily in a political sense, but rather in a “take all the precautions that you can” sense. Ultimately, the Covid-19 coronavirus is not partisan and not very selective. It can infect anyone that it reaches, even potentially those who have already gone through an infection.