Randomized trials outside the United States have not been able to prove plasma’s effectiveness, either. A trial at seven medical centers in Wuhan, the likely ground zero for the virus, concluded that convalescent plasma did not significantly improve patients’ recovery time.
The Coronavirus Outbreak ›
Frequently Asked Questions
Updated August 4, 2020
I have antibodies. Am I now immune?
- As of right now, that seems likely, for at least several months. There have been frightening accounts of people suffering what seems to be a second bout of Covid-19. But experts say these patients may have a drawn-out course of infection, with the virus taking a slow toll weeks to months after initial exposure. People infected with the coronavirus typically produce immune molecules called antibodies, which are protective proteins made in response to an infection. These antibodies may last in the body only two to three months, which may seem worrisome, but that’s perfectly normal after an acute infection subsides, said Dr. Michael Mina, an immunologist at Harvard University. It may be possible to get the coronavirus again, but it’s highly unlikely that it would be possible in a short window of time from initial infection or make people sicker the second time.
I’m a small-business owner. Can I get relief?
- The stimulus bills enacted in March offer help for the millions of American small businesses. Those eligible for aid are businesses and nonprofit organizations with fewer than 500 workers, including sole proprietorships, independent contractors and freelancers. Some larger companies in some industries are also eligible. The help being offered, which is being managed by the Small Business Administration, includes the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. But lots of folks have not yet seen payouts. Even those who have received help are confused: The rules are draconian, and some are stuck sitting on money they don’t know how to use. Many small-business owners are getting less than they expected or not hearing anything at all.
What are my rights if I am worried about going back to work?
Should I refinance my mortgage?
- It could be a good idea, because mortgage rates have never been lower. Refinancing requests have pushed mortgage applications to some of the highest levels since 2008, so be prepared to get in line. But defaults are also up, so if you’re thinking about buying a home, be aware that some lenders have tightened their standards.
What is school going to look like in September?
- It is unlikely that many schools will return to a normal schedule this fall, requiring the grind of online learning, makeshift child care and stunted workdays to continue. California’s two largest public school districts — Los Angeles and San Diego — said on July 13, that instruction will be remote-only in the fall, citing concerns that surging coronavirus infections in their areas pose too dire a risk for students and teachers. Together, the two districts enroll some 825,000 students. They are the largest in the country so far to abandon plans for even a partial physical return to classrooms when they reopen in August. For other districts, the solution won’t be an all-or-nothing approach. Many systems, including the nation’s largest, New York City, are devising hybrid plans that involve spending some days in classrooms and other days online. There’s no national policy on this yet, so check with your municipal school system regularly to see what is happening in your community.
As in the U.S. trials, the Wuhan study had trouble recruiting participants and concluded early with just 103 volunteers. An analysis recently conducted by researchers, including Drs. Joyner and Casadevall, found that several overseas studies hinted that plasma was effective, but not all of them were randomized.
An Opening for President Trump
The Trump administration has framed convalescent plasma as a rare bright spot in the pandemic.
Eager to present his administration as marching toward a “cure,” Mr. Trump has mentioned plasma alongside remdesivir and dexamethasone, two coronavirus treatments that have been shown to be effective in randomized trials.
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the leader of the White House’s coronavirus task force, at one point pushed for the federal government to secure 500,000 bags of plasma to store for a possible wave of infections in the fall, according to a senior administration official. She also pushed for plasma transfusions in nursing homes, the official said.
When asked about these claims, a task force official said that Dr. Birx wanted to move quickly to capitalize on the period of time after a person is infected, when their plasma contains higher antibody levels. Dr. Birx said she wanted clinical trials to include vulnerable people in nursing homes, the official added.
Dr. Stephen M. Hahn, the F.D.A. commissioner, began discussing the benefits of plasma at White House briefings in March. In interviews and congressional testimony since then, he has presented it as one of the few therapeutics the agency can publicly endorse.
Last week, he said the F.D.A. was “encouraged by the early promising data that we’ve seen” and that it was “studying these data to determine, ultimately, the safety and efficacy of this product.”