News & Politics

Uh-Oh. South Korea Reports That Coronavirus 'Reactivates' in Some Patients Thought Cured

Workers wearing protective gears disinfect as a precaution against the new coronavirus at the subway station in Seoul, South Korea, Wednesday, March 11, 2020. (Kim Sun-woong/Newsis via AP)

The South Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting that 51 patients who were “cured” of the coronavirus have tested positive again. To be classified as cured, a patient must test positive for the virus and then have two tests in 24 hours that are negative.

It’s hard to say exactly why someone would test positive again. It could be faulty tests — something we’ve seen in the U.S. Or, the virus may have been “reactivated” in these patients.

It’s not likely that they were reinfected with coronavirus.

This is not the first report of a reactivated coronavirus. In March, doctors in Wuhan, China, said that as many as 10 percent of virus patients tested positive again after being cured.


“While we are putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause, we are conducting a comprehensive study on this,” Jeong said. “There have been many cases when a patient during treatment will test negative one day and positive another.”

A patient is deemed fully recovered when two tests conducted with a 24-hour interval show negative results.

The Korean CDC will conduct an epidemiological probe into the cases, Jeong said.

A Fox News analyst reviewed the South Korean data and is skeptical about “reactivation.”

Fox News medical contributor Dr. Nicole Saphier said she reviewed the study from South Korea that researchers claimed it was possible that some virus laid dormant within the person and had reactivated.

“I’m not so sure about that,” she said Tuesday on “Outnumbered.”

Saphier added that there is a “very high” false negative when it comes to the swab tests used to test for COVID-19.

“You have to really get far back there and get enough sampling for it to be positive,” she said Tuesday, referring to data from China that showed there were some 48 percent false-negative tests.

While reactivation can’t be ruled out, the more plausible explanation is false-negative tests. This is a new virus and we’re still learning about it, but researchers say that other coronaviruses don’t normally reactivate. The body builds up antibodies that prevent the virus from replicating. And it appears that patients testing positive again are not infectious and don’t exhibit symptoms.

While surveillance of similar patients showed that 80 to 90 percent had no trace of the virus in their system one month after being discharged from the hospital, Wang said officials were only working with “small samples.”

“We need a large-scale epidemiological study to guide our disease surveillance and prevention works,” he was quoted as saying.

Saphier on Tuesday echoed similar sentiments, saying that studies are “all over the chart right now,” which is why health officials keep updating recommendations.

It wouldn’t do any good to point out that this confusion and uncertainty by scientists and researchers leads to confusion and uncertainty by public officials trying to deal with the pandemic. We can’t point that out because it goes directly against the media narrative on the White House response to the virus. Trump should have known everything about this virus from November on. He should have had a plan in place. He should have planned for 2 million deaths. He should have stockpiled billions of masks. He should have buried a million ventilators in the desert. He should have had a detailed, itemized plan in place before the first American got sick.

Otherwise, he’s an incompetent clown.

Trump’s response to the crisis hasn’t been perfect, but I doubt any president could have done much better. To imagine a different outcome if Obama or Hillary Clinton were president is a political judgment, not reality.

Presidents don’t make sure that every single employee of the executive branch is performing their jobs competently, nor do they concern themselves with information like how many masks are in the national stockpile. It’s silly to believe that a president can do much more in a crisis like this than set the gigantic machinery of government in motion.

And then hope for the best.