RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC)– The Greater Richmond Transit Company has reported its first known COVID-19 reinfection within the company, which is a rare occurrence according to health experts. The GRTC employee recently contracted coronavirus for the second time.
This new reinfection case marks the 69th COVID-19 case reported within GRTC since the pandemic began. The employee has public-facing duties and last reported to work April 7. They have since been at home to recover and quarantine.
“As of right now there’s no indication that the individual was exposed on duty,” said Carrie Rose-Pace, a representative for the company.
Rose-Pace told 8News, it was confirmed that this was a new COVID-19 case rather than a prolonged infection.
“Just like all of our cases, they have to test negative before being cleared to return to work. Of course, this case also followed that same protocol. They had tested negative and had been cleared to return to work previously,” said Rose-Pace.
This marks one of two staff members actively battling COVID-19. Contact tracing is still underway and the company is working very closely with the Virginia Department of Health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cases of reinfection with COVID-19 have been reported, but remain rare. Dr. Diane Sinnatamby is an Infectious Disease Specialist at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center. According to Sinnatamby, cases like these are increasing due to several factors, including emerging COVID variants.
“It’s not altogether impossible,” said Sinnatamby.
Dr. Sinnatamby told 8News, the first reported case of reinfection was in November 2020 during an outbreak at a nursing facility in Kentucky. Health leaders noticed that there were quite a number of residents who had COVID-19 in July, and were reinfected in October and November. Some of the cases were severe.
Research shows, a person who has recovered from COVID is immune for 90 days. In addition, according to the Virginia Department of Health, retesting asymptomatic people within three months of their initial COVID-19 infection by a viral test is not recommended. People who have tested positive can persistently test positive for many weeks after their infection, even though they are not infectious. In the data so far, reinfection within three months is not likely.
Dr. Sinnatamby told 8News, an initial mild or asymptomatic COVID-19 infection is a factor that could lead to reinfection.
“Reinfections happen now. Maybe the initial infection was really not a severe infection that would produce a significant immune response,” said Sinnatamby.
Despite if it’s an initial infection or a reinfection, if the body has trouble fighting the virus, it can cause lingering health concerns. Reinfection could cause complications in your lungs. It could lead to the weakening of your heart and can cause immunological problems. It could also lead to blood clots in your lungs and extremities.
Health experts advise vaccination to protect against COVID-19 reinfection. A patient suffering from COVID-19 is also less likely to be hospitalized with the virus. It is less likely, but even with the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, a person can still get infected. Dr. Sinnatamby told 8News, this kind of infection would be mild.
GRTC told 8News, the company will be notifying staff members who had possible contact with the employees who test positive. Vaccination within GRTC is voluntary.