My younger daughter was intrigued by this Bloomberg piece by Madison Muller, “Never Had Covid? You May Hold Key To Beating the Virus.” It explores the idea that some of us who’ve not yet caught the virus may (possibly, maybe) have some genetic “super immunity” that could (maybe, possibly) lead to future defenses and/or treatments of the disease:
More than half of Americans may have never had Covid, according to U.S. government data, leaving scientists wondering whether those who’ve avoided the novel coronavirus might actually be immune to the virus altogether. This could offer new clues into how to attack Covid.
At this stage in the pandemic, people may be immune due to vaccines, a past infection, or a combination of both. There’s also evidence that, in rare instances, some people may be Covid-immune without infection or vaccination at all.
The coronavirus’s frequent mutations and the fact that immunity wanes over time make it difficult to discern how many people are immune at any given moment. Studies have shown, for example, that while omicron infections offer some immunity against delta, omicron is able to circumvent antibodies from both past infection with other variants and vaccination. Current surveillance techniques have also likely vastly underestimated the number of cases, as more people are taking Covid tests at home and not reporting the results.*
… As cases yet again rise in many regions more than two years into the pandemic, studying those who have not yet caught Covid has become just as critical as studying those who have. Experts say that people with so-called “super” immunity who appear resistant to the virus without vaccination may hold answers to important questions about why certain people get so sick while others don’t. Examining these cases could also help inform the development of vaccines and therapeutics less vulnerable to viral mutations.
Alas, the reason this article caught YD’s attention is that we’re the only ones in our household and extended family who have not yet tested positive. We talked about that today while swabbing to confirm that it’s still true after the Slacktivixen tested positive this morning. Again. She’s fatigued and has a mild cough, but no fever or trouble breathing (and she can still taste and smell, so far).
This is breakthrough case No. 2 for my fully vaxxed and boosted wife who is resting comfortably in the other living room (the one that was probably supposed to be a dining room?) re-watching the stories of the elite squad of dedicated detectives who investigate especially heinous crimes. Thanks to the vaccines, this will likely again be a “mild” case.
The thing about that, though, is that a “mild” case of Covid still sucks in a non-mild way. And it sucks even more this time around because the former employer and government supports for people with Covid are no longer in place because … well, I guess we just got tired of doing that? Because at this point the novel coronavirus has lost its novelty?
The previous time my wife tested positive I was sent home from the Big Box, told to get tested, and not permitted to return until 24 hours after a negative test result. This time they’re just, like, “But you didn’t test positive right? So why aren’t you coming in? And why are you still wearing a mask like some weirdo?”
I’m still wearing a mask at the Big Box, in part, because my department includes three cancer patients and one co-worker with a 10-month-old at home. And because some percentage of the 2,000+ customers who come through our building every day are also immunocompromised, at-risk, or the parents of children too young to be vaccinated. When I explain this, the response tends to be, “Right, so I understand why they might choose to still wear one, but …” And so, realizing that I’ve arrived at a I-don’t-know-how-to-explain-to-you-why-you-should-care-about-other-people impasse, and recognizing that such a situation tends to make me impatient and preachy, I just say something like “Some people still have to wear them and as long as that’s true I think I should wear one so that no one tries to make them feel weird about it” and leave it at that.
My tone here may be a bit testy and irritable and that’s probably because, even though she’s doing OK and we’ve got good reasons not to expect the worst, I am on some level simply scared. My wife will almost certainly be fine in a few weeks, but she also just tested positive for the disease that has killed more than a million Americans over the past two years. I’m probably also a bit testy and irritable because pretending that we’re past the point where anyone should be even a little scared — or where anyone is permitted to admit to being even a little scared — is foolhardy and dishonest and exhausting.
And also because my wife is probably going to need to use vacation time before she’s healthy and testing negative again. That strikes me as disastrously foolish public health policy and as the kind of contemptuous disregard for workers and customers alike that tends to make me, you know, a bit testy and irritable.
In any case, we’re hoping that the ‘vixen’s case proves to be even milder than mild so that we’ll soon be able to “move on” and “get back to normal” just like our employers and our government apparently have done.
Who knows? Maybe younger daughter will turn out to be carrying some “super immunity” gene that will allow scientists to unlock the kind of treatment that will remove the threat of future waves of a pandemic that has, so far, proved far more enduring than our attention span for dealing with it responsibly.
* Reporting to who? I’d guess that if I diligently searched I could find some website or 800-number at which I could dutifully “report” the ‘vixen’s positive test. But no one seems to be actively soliciting any such reports and the general sense one gets — from local, state, and federal officials, public health offices, health care industry types, and our actual employers — is that any such reporting would be unwelcome. We’ve long since crossed into the fingers-in-ears “Lalala I can’t heeeear you!” phase of this pandemic in which every reminder that it hasn’t actually ended yet seems to be treated with a kind of hostile resentment.
I’d say that was premature, except that would suggest such a response could, at any point in time, be appropriate.