MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – With Thanksgiving a week away, many WCCO viewers have been asking about COVID safety.

Kelsey from Chanhassen said she had COVID in October and has since recovered. She wanted to know: “Is it safe for me to see family members who also recently had COVID?

“I think that would generally not be advisable, because of the question of re-infection,” said Dr. Beth Thielen, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Minnesota Medical School.

She also suggests people who’ve recovered from the virus continue to wear masks.

“I’d like to steer us away from looking at immunity as a black and white concept,” said Dr. Thielen. “I think it’s more of a grey issue.”

On its website, the CDC says “re-infection for COVID is possible, but likely uncommon within 3 months.”

Dr. Thielen said the best-case scenario would be that someone would not recover from the disease and not become re-infected. But, she also points out here are different aspects of immunity. She says there’s immunity from becoming infected, immunity from transmitting the virus, and immunity from becoming significantly ill.

“We’ve seen from other viral infections that people can become immune to severe diseases and yet still become infected and still have viral shedding and still transmit the virus to others,” she said.

She also pointed to cases where researchers have shown people to be re-infected with COVID-19. Even though those cases appear to be rare, Dr. Thielen said that could be partly due to a lack of reporting.

“There may be other infections that we’re not picking up on because we haven’t done intensive testing to look at that question,” she said.

Dr. Thielen said other coronaviruses have been known to re-infect people and it will take time to better understand this novel coronavirus.

“I’m trying to exercise a little bit of caution from what we know of other respiratory viruses and respiratory diseases,” she said. “I have to be cautious and warn people they should be cautious and protect themselves.”

Heather Brown

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