Can survivors of the coronavirus help rescue the economy? (The New Yorker)

There is an ever-expanding group of people who have been infected by the coronavirus but are no longer symptomatic, if they ever were—the convalescents. Governor Andrew Cuomo, of New York, has advocated for widespread blood tests as a way for restarting the economy in a way that is consistent with a responsible public-health strategy.

“I believe, once we get that test, you’re going to find hundreds of thousands of people who have had the coronavirus and resolved. Let the younger people go back to work. Let the recovered people go back to work.” Yet there have been a number of reports, from China and Japan, about patients who have recovered from covid-19 but subsequently fell ill again. With the U.S. economy in a state of near-collapse, is it worth the risk to invite convalescents back to work?

With other diseases, convalescents have proved invaluable. “We’ve seen this in previous epidemics where survivors have a special role,” Dr. Seema Yasmin, a former officer in the Epidemic Intelligence Service who now teaches science journalism and clinical-communication skills at Stanford University, said.

She observed the phenomenon firsthand in Liberia, in December, 2015, when she was reporting on an Ebola outbreak and talked to survivors who were caring for stricken family members. “People who have been infected but recovered have antibodies in their system that allow them to be out and about and be exposed to the virus, knowing that it’s unlikely that they’ll become reinfected,” she said, citing a 2017 study in the Journal of Infectious Diseases

Read this article by Lawrence Wright from the March 30th issue of The New Yorker here:


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