Low community spread of COVID-19 also means lower chance of herd immunity

Low community spread of COVID-19 also means lower chance of herd immunity

PITTSBURGH — Walk down any street in Downtown Pittsburgh and you’re likely to see most people wearing masks. While wearing masks can lower the risk of community spread of COVID-19, it also lessens the chances of herd immunity.

“Herd immunity, if we would achieve it, is still a long way off at this point. Really our best hope is a vaccine to start to bring an end to the pandemic,” said AHN Infectious Disease Clinician Dr. Nathan Shively.

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The best way to determine individual immunity is through antibody tests, which can tell if a person’s body has built up the needed resistance to COVID-19 which comes after recovery. According to the Allegheny County Health Department, more than 13,000 antibody tests have been taken by people who live in the county since April. Just over 700 or about 5% of those tests came back positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Those test results are based on people who were potentially exposed to the virus. Dr. Shively said the number of people with antibodies could be even lower.

“I would say we are nowhere near herd immunity really anywhere in the country and even more so in Allegheny County. The vast majority of residents are still susceptible to the disease,” Dr. Shively said.

A vaccine is the most realistic hope to end the pandemic, but until that happens, Shively said people need to be smart.

“With us moving into the colder weather months, it means people should be more vigilant watching their distance from people, washing their hands, avoiding crowds,” he said.

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