Coronavirus Briefing: What Happened Today

It’s official: Humans can get reinfected with the coronavirus. The first documented case is a 33-year-old man in Hong Kong who caught the virus at the end of March and, more than four months later, picked it up again during a trip to Europe.

The proof lay in the genome sequencing of the virus from both of the man’s infections, which researchers found to be significantly different. The second strain was one that had been circulating in Europe when he was there.

The theoretical possibility of reinfection does not come as a surprise. “We expected that the immunity to the coronavirus might last less than a year because that’s how it is with common cold coronaviruses,” Apoorva Mandavilli, a Times science reporter, told us.

The man experienced mild symptoms the first time he had Covid-19 but had none the second time — an encouraging sign, and very likely an indication that his immune system had been trained by the initial infection.

If the research is buttressed by subsequent cases, it will underline the need for a comprehensive vaccine. “We can’t just get to herd immunity the natural way because only vaccines may be able to produce the kind of immune response that can prevent reinfection,” Apoorva said.

Forget antibody tests. Many of the current ones are inaccurate, some look for the wrong antibodies and even the right antibodies can disappear, experts at the Infectious Diseases Society of America have advised. And because antibody tests can’t tell you if you’re immune to subsequent infections, they’re useless in deciding whether to ease up on mask-wearing and other social-distancing precautions.

As the United States struggles to contain the pandemic and the European Union faces a fresh wave of cases, life in many parts of China is more or less back to normal.

Schools and movie theaters have reopened, cities are hosting large events, social distancing and masks rules have been relaxed, and people are resuming their old habits and routines — with some modifications.

It’s a sharp departure from the early days of the outbreak when China was the epicenter of the virus and anxiety gripped the country. The authoritarian government instituted a strict lockdown that successfully curbed cases, and now local transmission rates are near zero. The total number of confirmed cases in the country is 84,951, with at least 4,634 deaths from the virus. In the United States, nearly 5.7 million people have been infected and at least 176,200 have died.

Experts warn that China could still face a resurgence, and many are worried that the public isn’t taking the virus seriously enough. Still, many are just glad to be returning to something resembling normal life.

Yuki Liu, a 28-year-old who works at a foreign trading company, attended a crowded pool party rave in Wuhan this month where she said she felt “relaxed and free.”

“To be honest, I almost forgot about the epidemic,” she said.

I’ve finished a project almost 50 years in the making. My father made a chess board. He intended to make the chess pieces also but never got around to it. About 20 years ago, I started carving the pieces (he passed away 30 years ago). I finally had the time to finish and now my chess pieces adorn his chess board.

— Gary Adkins, Raleigh, N.C.

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