UCSF doctor explains how 'hybrid COVID immunity' could benefit start of new school year

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Tuesday, August 9, 2022
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UCSF doctor explains how long you have immunity from COVID after getting infected as students, teachers head back to school.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- It is back-to-school time, and because COVID-19 circulated throughout the summer, experts are saying this will likely be a much better school year when it comes to masking and sick calls.

For the third year in a row, schools across the Bay Area are welcoming students back amid the pandemic.

San Jose Unified School District says it does not have the same restrictions as last fall but is still approaching the year with caution due to the unpredictability of COVID.

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"We don't know what to expect exactly and we are still seeing community spread," SJUSD Public Information Officer Jennifer Maddox said. "We are seeing COVID in the community and as long as it is in the community, we know it will be in schools as well. So, we want to make sure we are minimizing the transmission within the schools as much as possible."

They will do this through health and safety guidelines being sent to parents this week, including recommendations on masks.

But UCSF Infectious Diseases Expert Dr. Peter Chin-Hong says immunity could make the start of this school year smoother than in years past.

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"This school year is a lot different because we have a lot more tools like we do in adults," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "I think the biggest difference between this school year and last school year is a lot of kids have gotten COVID naturally."

In fact, a lot of people have gotten COVID naturally and Dr. Chin-Hong says that a mix of infection and vaccination gives us all a hybrid immunity to the virus.

The BA.5 variant continues to be the dominant strain of COVID in the community and, if you got it, you should be fairly safe from reinfection.

"They have at least three months off if BA.5 stays dominant," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "If you get a new variant or subvariant, the rules may change and there may be a shorter window period. But for right now, I would say at least three months possibly longer."

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Dr. Chin-Hong says hybrid immunity allows your body to better fight off infection and this protection should help as the bells ring for another school year.

"We're probably descending into a relatively good start of the school year because the curve is coming down in the Bay Area right now," Dr. Chin-Hong said. "So it may be a good period of time where kids can be kids, but it still doesn't mean you don't navigate the world a little bit cautiously."

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