Is Trump wrong to say he is immune to COVID-19?


Fact Box

  • As of October 12, there have been a total of 8 million coronavirus cases in the United States, with 219,916 deaths. 
  • On Friday, October 2, President Trump and first lady Melania Trump tested positive for coronavirus. Trump stated he would be home for a two week quarantine and cancel events until he was cleared. 
  • Trump was temporarily transferred to Walter Reed Medical Center to receive treatment. He returned to the White House Monday, October 5, where he “took off his mask and gave a thumbs up before walking inside.” 
  • On Sunday, Trump insisted he no longer has coronavirus and is “immune.” He plans to return to the campaign on Monday.

Elizabeth (No)

It appears Trump has kicked COVID-19. Good for him! And good for the country. In true Trumpian fashion, he's proclaimed in grandiose superlatives his now-immunity to this virus. In a time when uncertainty abounds, and positive news is in woefully short supply, this is good news indeed. The media response to his announcement underlines the contentious relationship between them and the president.

In defense of the media, it may well be premature and overly-optimistic to declare full 'immunity.' Truth is, we don't know the duration of immunity nor the ability to spread it after one has recovered from COVID. However, we also aren't entirely in the dark, and though the pronouncement, in keeping with Trump, is bombastic and superlative-laden, it's also not a lie cut from whole cloth as much of the media would have us believe. Is Trump 'maybe forever' immune? No idea. Less than one year from COVID's inception is hardly enough of forever to assess that claim. Is Trump maybe, in his clumsy way, attempting to reassure the American public and communicate that (contrary to what the media keeps spewing), a positive COVID diagnosis is not an automatic death sentence, even for an overweight septuagenarian (70-something-year-old)? Highly likely.

There are many as yet unanswered questions regarding COVID's long-term effects. However, given the current scientific understanding of other coronaviruses (SARS/MERS), it is reasonable to think one could be temporarily immune. That said, there's no way of knowing if Trump or anyone else is immune to a different strain of COVID-19 than the one which made them sick. So while it may be unwise, there's a scientifically-based reason to say it isn't incorrect to declare one's immunity.

Andrew (Yes)

For President Trump to claim he is immune to COVID-19 when he does not know that with certainty to be the case is wrong. In actuality, nobody really knows if they are or are not immune to the virus. We still don't know how effective the antibodies created by infection are at actually preventing future infections. President Trump has shown some level of antibodies in his system, but knowing if they are effective and for how long remains unknown. President Trump saying something so inaccurate from such a powerful office risks spreading misinformation that can be dangerous to the public. By claiming immunity from COVID-19, others infected with the virus might believe they also are “immune” simply because the president has said he is.

For the pandemic to come to an end, we need the population to listen to experts and follow guidance from the scientific community, not vague inaccuracies coming from the president’s Twitter feed. By projecting his ideas, which are often contradictory to what scientists say, President Trump further erodes trust in experts and contributes to extremely dangerous cavalier attitudes toward the virus. Distrust in our experts can lead to the contagion spreading and public safety diminishing. President Trump's immunity claims look like he’s inflating his success in “beating” a sickness that has killed over a million worldwide. That is not only tone deaf to those mourning around the world, but risks people decreasing their personal attempts at virus prevention if they don’t believe COVID to be that dangerous. His words can save or cost lives moving forward, and making these claims without evidence could likely do the latter.

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