Twitter Flags Trumps Tweet About Being “Immune” to COVID-19

Another day, another false or misleading tweet from the US president. This time, Trump’s claim that he is now immune to COVID-19 is being flagged.

Last week, Trump posted false information saying that people shouldn’t be afraid of COVID-19 because it’s less of a threat than the average flu. Twitter, of course, flagged the tweet. Meanwhile, the comments were re-posted to Facebook. The comments were so false and dangerous, even Facebook took action and took down the post.

Of course, being president seems to mean that no further consequence will occur. You are free to post lies that threatens people’s lives all day, every day, and your account stays in place anyway. This in spite of others risking suspensions. The worst that can happen is you getting a warning message placed above your tweet. So, what’s really stopping the president from being a threat to the American people? Nothing. So, he is free to post further dangerous comments on his official accounts.

This is exactly what Trump seems to have done yet again this week. He posted further false and misleading information claiming that he is now immune to COVID-19. His theory is that he was already infected and is now immune. Twitter was forced to flag the comment. Here’s the tweet in question:

A report from the CBC:

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he had fully recovered from COVID-19 and was not an infection risk for others, freeing him to return to holding big campaign rallies during the final weeks of the race for the White House.

Trump also said, without producing evidence, that he was now immune, a claim that drew a flag from Twitter for violating the social media platform’s rules about misleading information related to COVID-19.

The comments from Trump came a day after his physician said the president had taken a test showing he was no longer infectious. He did not say directly whether Trump had tested negative for COVID-19.

The president, who spent three days in the hospital after revealing he had tested positive on Oct. 2, said he was no longer on medications for the coronavirus and was now immune from re-infection.

“It looks like I’m immune for, I don’t know, maybe a long time, or maybe a short time. It could be a lifetime. Nobody really knows,” Trump told Fox.

This theory that, once you have been infected by COVID-19, you are now immune, came about earlier in the pandemic. When a person becomes ill due to COVID-19, the human body does produce anti-bodies. So, people falsely suggested that if you get infected and survive, then you’ll become immune to COVID-19. Back in June, digital rights organizations warned against apps that offer “immunity passports“. This is because software developers were developing these apps thinking that you will be immune to COVID-19 after getting infected. This development, of course, is dangerous because it risked people deliberately infecting themselves so they can get these so-called “passports”.

At the time, it was problematic trying to refute these claims. This is because there was very little in the way of evidence that showed people can get re-infected with COVID-19. This is because we were far too early into the pandemic to really know either way. The best that could be done is to say that there is no scientific evidence suggesting that immunity is a sure thing.

Of course, that was then, this is now. What do we know now?

Well, there is actually plenty of evidence saying that it’s more than possible for people to become re-infected with COVID-19. It is increasingly becoming well documented that people are becoming infected a second time. Science is currently scrambling to understand how this aspect of the virus works. From The Guardian:

On 15 August, a 33-year-old man landed in Hong Kong after flying home from Spain. On arrival, he was screened for coronavirus. Despite feeling well he tested positive. It was the second time he had picked up Covid-19 in less than five months.

The case immediately caught scientists’ attention. The man was the first in the world to have a confirmed coronavirus reinfection and there were positives to take from the report. First and foremost, he was asymptomatic. Although reinfected with Sars-Cov-2, his immune system swung into action fast and contained the virus without him knowing.

Many researchers took heart from the case, but since the patient came to light a flurry of reinfections around the world have raised fresh concerns. Within days of the Hong Kong case being made public, doctors in the US reported that a 25-year-old man from Reno, Nevada, had been hospitalised with a Covid-19 reinfection after shrugging off an earlier brush with the disease. More cases soon followed. While most infections were no worse the second time around, a good number cropped up – in the US, the Netherlands, Ecuador and India – where the reinfection was more severe.

“It’s really hard to find a pattern right now,” said Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunobiology at Yale University who has been following cases of reinfection closely. “Essentially every case is different.”

This is far from the only report floating around about re-infection. Kiro 7 is also reporting on people becoming re-infected. It is raising concerns about the effectiveness of a vaccine. From that report:

Doctors say a patient in the Seattle area is confirmed to have been reinfected with COVID-19, in only the third documented case of reinfection in the U.S. Researchers at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle are studying what the reinfection could tell them about how long immunity lasts, and how effective a vaccine could be.

The only other documented second infections were a 35-year-old man in Hong Kong, and a 25-year-old man in Reno, Nevada.

“We don’t know how much immunity levels we need to be protected,” said Dr. Jason Goldman, who leads the COVID Research Team at Swedish Medical Center.

So, what does this all mean? Twitter was well within their rights to flag Trump’s tweet. There’s not enough evidence for researchers to figure out how re-infection works fully yet. What we do know is that it is actually possible to get infected a second time with COVID-19. What triggers this and the pattern with this is unclear at this stage.

Chances are, this case is more Trump being an idiot. Paying attention to facts and understanding anything really isn’t his specialty by any stretch of the imagination. Knowing anything about re-infection requires a certain degree of paying attention to the facts. What is likely is that he wasn’t really aware of any of this. So, it forced Twitter to act anyway. Facebook apparently took no action to remove the post, however. So, while the damage might be somewhat mitigated on Twitter, the false statements is free to cause damage for Facebook users. The belief that you can only be infected once will likely strengthen even though it has been effectively disproven at this stage.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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