By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Since Dec. 31, state officials estimate nearly 215,000 Minnesotans have caught COVID-19. Many of those people have finished their isolation period or will soon.

We wanted to know: How should people act after isolating from COVID-19? And how long does the natural immunity last? Good Question. Jeff Wagner learned several variables determine how long you’re protected.

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Like many Minnesotans, Barb Koste and her husband spent the holidays in quarantine after contracting COVID-19.

“I’m still dealing with the cough but I am negative now,” Koste said.

She was vaccinated and boosted. Now with her natural immunity, the question is whether she’ll jump back into public settings with a renewed sense of protection.

“Well I’m hoping so,” she said. “My son tells us that we’re bulletproof now.”

The couple is now contemplating a flight to Las Vegas, but she isn’t rushing to book tickets.

“I’m more apprehensive about catching it again,” she said.

While it is possible to get re-infected, Mayo Clinic infection disease physician Dr. Abinash Virk says it likely won’t happen for those who just ended isolation.

“I think the first take home message is that you have some immunity against COVID-19 for some period of time,” Dr. Virk said.

(credit: CBS)

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She says studies have shown people have some COVID-19 immunity six to 10 months after their infection.

“However, the protection is best within the first 90 days, and even more so within the first 45 days,” she said.

Not only for yourself, but others. For example, let’s say you just recovered from COVID-19 right as someone else in your house tested positive. The CDC says you only need to isolate if you show symptoms. Otherwise, wear a mask when indoors in public for 10 days after exposure.

Despite having some COVID-19 immunity, Dr. Virk says it’s possible you can catch the virus again months later, but it should better protect against severe symptoms and hospitalization.

“That caveat is not truly there if for people who are immunocompromised because their immunity is not as good,” Dr. Virk said. “So I think they really still have to be more cautious.”

Getting vaccinated or boosted helps once the natural immunity wanes. And with the way the Omicron variant is spreading, doctors still recommend people wear masks.

“There is a risk that you can pick it up asymptomatically and give it to somebody else,” she said.

For those who have the “triple protection” – as in vaccination, booster shot, and recent infection antibodies — Dr. Virk said it’s fine for them to not wear a mask so long as it’s not in a crowded situation indoors. The key point though is when the infection occurred.

“Say somebody got an infection in 2020 and now we’re in 2022. Can I really rely on that infection in 2020 to give me protection in 2022? I don’t know that,” Dr. Virk said.

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If you haven’t had a booster shot yet and just finished isolating from COVID-19, doctors say to get it as soon as you can, so long as it’s been five months since you received your initial vaccine shots.

Jeff Wagner