CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - As medical professionals urge people to wear masks to help slow the spread of the coronavirus, some are choosing not to, hoping for "herd immunity."
But is that a valid point of view?
"Yes and no, mostly no," Dr. Mike Sweat, the director of MUSC's Center for Global Health says.
"Herd immunity is when a large proportion of the population has been exposed and has immunity, and because so many people are immune, the virus can no longer be transmitted through the network and it dies off," he says.
Sweat says it takes about 70 to 80 percent of the population to reach herd immunity.
"So to achieve herd immunity, you would have large numbers of people dying in the process, to start with," he said. "And secondly, it's not clear what sort of immunity one develops after being infected. Most people think logically that your body has cleared the infection through your immune system. It's just how long it's sustained."
Sweat says even immunity from the common cold, the flu and other viruses can be short-lived. People can catch those illnesses again, in some cases, even in the same season or in the next year. It is still not clear whether someone who has had COVID-19 is immune from getting it again.
"Those questions are still unknown, so it would be a massive gamble," he said. "We would incur so many deaths and so much misery achieving 70 percent of our population being infected that it would not be a smart move."
The real smart move, he says, is to wait this out until there is a vaccine.
“My advice to everybody is do your best to avoid this, wait it out, we’ll probably get a vaccine hopefully in the coming year and that will be that,” he said.
South Carolina set another record Wednesday in the number of confirmed new cases reported over a 24-hour period. The state’s Department of Health and Environmental Control reported 1,291 new cases of COVID-19.
That brought the total number of people confirmed to have COVID-19 in the state to 27,842, and those who have died to 683.
As of Monday, DHEC officials say 81% of 15,207 positive cases, who the department has symptom onset data on, are estimated to have recovered from COVID-19 while 19% of patients remain ill.