Kona Community Hospital staff member’s second positive COVID-19 test not due to reinfection

Coronavirus

KEALAKEKUA, Hawaii (KHON2) — Kona Community Hospital’s battle with a cluster of COVID-19 prompted a test of all staff to identify new positive cases, and a recent positive result is raising some questions.

The hospital sent out a release Monday saying that 547 of 548 staff had tested negative, but stated that “The single positive test result is for a worker from out-of-state who previously had COVID, but had recovered and was symptom-free for more than the required 10-day period. This worker was cleared for work by the Hawaii Department of Health.”

According to Dr. Scott Miscovich, who is working with testing the cluster at KCH, the worker had been without symptoms for about three weeks and was well within guidelines for being cleared.

“How do you get to be released? Well the guidelines have just even been changed,” Dr. Miscovich said. “You get tested, and then you have to have a minimum of three days where you no longer have fever. And you no longer are demonstrating any cough or any symptoms. So this person was weeks after that, and it was clear to return.”

The problem with testing an individual that has cleared COVID-19 protocol after infection is the virus can continue to show up on tests even if the person is no longer infectious.

“I’d like to tell the public and tell employers especially is that test that you get is so sensitive, that there will be residual proteins from the virus in there that will be detectable for sometimes months and months and months but it does not mean that you are actively shedding,” Dr. Miscovich said.

Reinfection is a topic that has drawn much attention lately with the prospects of herd immunity brought up in regards to COVID-19 policy.

“No one knows,” Dr. Miscovich said of the possibility. “The research is stating that we are starting to see that some people have less of the antibody present as time progresses. There is no evidence that we have seen that someone has completely lost protection from antibodies and is actively going to get a second infection.”

Dr. Miscovich added that there was some positive news that broke about COVID-19 globally Monday, with Oxford University’s Phase 1 trial for a vaccine for the virus showing promise.

“The number of people that maintain very strong antibodies was very high so most of us were really encouraged to know that something that is going to a phase 2,” Dr. Miscovich said. “That would project that we might be in first quarter next year where we could already be talking about something that’s passed through the rigors of a multi-phased trial.”

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