FORT WORTH, Texas — Meredith McKee rushed to the hospital in June after taking her blood pressure at a CVS pharmacy and seeing it was dangerously high. The emergency room staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital admitted her but insisted on testing for COVID-19.
"I laughed at the team and said I had already had it," said McKee, a 45-year-old Dallas resident. "There's no way I could have COVID again."
But the test proved her wrong.
"I didn't have any symptoms other than high blood pressure," she said. "If it wasn't for the second test, I would have never known."
McKee was first diagnosed with COVID-19 early this year after experiencing mild symptoms. She recovered after a few weeks and later tested positive for antibodies. She stayed in her home since then, only going outside if it was essential. But in late May, she felt it was safe to attend a couple of outdoor social events and a close friend's birthday party.
"It was before the mask mandate, so no one was wearing masks," McKee said. "If I would have known there was a possibility for reinfection I would have never gone."
Confirmed reinfection cases are extremely rare worldwide, and new research suggests immunity to the coronavirus could last years, so why are health experts sounding the alarm that there's not enough data to know how effective antibodies are at fighting COVID-19?
Testing of reinfected patients is limited because the second time around symptoms could be minor, nonexistent or completely different from the first infection.
The current threshold for confirmed reinfection cases must show the second virus was different from the first contracted virus, excluding a countless number of patients who did not have an initial test.
As of this week, more than 66,000 people had recovered from COVID-19 in Tarrant County. Armed with new antibodies, these patients might think they no longer have to take the same precautions or worry about reinfection, but that's not the case, according to Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada Public Health Laboratory, who warns that there's not enough data to know how effective antibodies are at fighting this novel coronavirus.