TRUST INDEX: Can you get COVID-19 twice?

HOUSTON – Can you get COVID-19 twice? Are you immune from getting it once you are recovered? These are questions we’ve received many times from viewers. A prominent Senator also recently reiterated claims about immunity. We put those claims to our Trust Index.

COVID-19 again

We introduced you to Adam Stadler and his wife Audrey in May while discussing the lingering effects of COVID-19. Months later, we learned that Adam tested positive again for the virus.

“It felt like I literally was going to die,” Adam said.

Adam first contracted COVID-19 at the end of March and was eventually treated at United Memorial Medical Center. He was released from the hospital in May. UMMC staff even gave him a “Nice Try Covid, I Survived” certificate to hang on the wall.

After quarantining at his home in Kerr County for two weeks, two tests showed he was negative for the virus. Then, his wife contracted COVID-19 at the end of June. Audrey believes she contracted the virus during a car ride with an asymptomatic family member.

“Adam felt like, ‘look you took care of me, I’m not worried, I have antibodies, I’ve already had this,” said Audrey.

Except Adam got sick again. Another test at the end of June showed he was positive for COVID-19.

“I’d like to think I’m a pretty tough ol’ country boy, but it had me crying like a little baby because of the pain,” said Adam.

The Stadlers provided KPRC 2 with multiple documents showing the treatments they received and the results of the COVID-19 tests they were administered. KPRC 2 also spoke with Dr. Joseph Varon, who treated the couple.

“I do believe he was infected twice,” said Varon, Chief of Medicine at Houston’s United Memorial Medical Center. “The fact that you have corona does not preclude you from getting in trouble again.”

Can you get COVID-19 twice?

Studies in the US and abroad are more skeptical. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state in the last six months there have been no confirmed cases of reinfection. Studies, like one conducted in May in South Korea, suggest remnants of the virus in a person’s system can cause false-positive results. Another theory is viral loads fall low enough to be undetectable, only to resurface later.

Controversial comments

“There are millions of us, like me, who are immune,” said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky). “The one way we get immunity is by having more people get it.”

Paul, who is also a doctor, reiterated his prior claims about immunity during an interview this month. That interview was uploaded to YouTube.

Except, researchers and the CDC still don’t yet know enough about this virus to validate Paul’s claims.

“We don’t have enough data to conclusively say how long somebody might have immunity,” said Dr. Prathit Kulkarni with Baylor College of Medicine.

Kulkarni also said researchers still don’t know what level of immunity is needed to guard against COVID-19. As for re-infection?

“Could that occur at some point in the future? I think that it’s theoretically possible,” said Kulkarni.

Trust Index

Be Careful

After reviewing this topic, we've found some issues - Be Careful.

What is the Trust Index?

We put Sen. Paul’s claim to the KPRC 2 Trust Index.

Since there are still no scientific conclusions regarding a person’s immunity to COVID-19 once recovered, KPRC 2 is marking his statements yellow — be careful with this one.

The Stadlers certainly are, especially since no one from the health department has called them to discuss Adam’s case.

“You would think they would want to use me as a guinea pig. Not that’s what I really want to do, but if I can help the community and, you know, do something,” said Adam.

The CDC also reports “the risk of reinfection may be lower in the first 3 months after initial infection, based on limited evidence from another betacoronavirus.” The agency also cautions “persons who develop new symptoms consistent with COVID-19 more than 3 months after the date of symptom onset of the most recent illness episode should be retested.”