Can you test positive for COVID-19 more than once? Duke medical chief weighs in

DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- Once you've had coronavirus, can you get it again? What's antibody testing, and is it going to help the economy?

Dr. Lisa Pickett, the chief medical officer at Duke University Hospital, tackled these and a few other COVID-19 questions in a live Q&A session with ABC11 on Thursday.

A partial transcript follows. Watch the full answers in the media player above.

Some coronavirus patients in China and South Korea are testing positive again after having recovered. What does that mean?

In talking to experts here at Duke, it is not entirely clear that those patients are still infectious. We just simply don't know yet. People may intermittently shed virus even after they've recovered from an infection, and whether or not that sort-of-dead virus that's not infectious or it is, is not clear.

Can you talk about that convalescent plasma and how it could now help people who are fighting COVID-19?

We do know that it takes several weeks for those antibodies to be present consistently in a patient's blood and for them to be potentially effective for another patient. And there is a clinical trial going on at Duke currently, in fact ... so we're very excited about this and very hopeful, but we don't have all the data yet.

Who can donate this plasma if they've recovered, and do you have to be symptom-free?

So I would ask each person check in with their primary care physician, and they're also welcome to go to the DukeHealth.org website and seek information about potentially participating in a clinical trial. It's pretty early on now, so we're getting the web site up and going as far as the clinical trial, but I think there's great opportunity as time goes by.

Can you tell us what is antibody testing and what can it be used for? Will it get the economy going again?

An antibody test would be simply looking for an antibody that had shown that you had potentially been exposed or might be immune to the virus based upon prior exposure. It's hard to see how that could help jumpstart our economy immediately because it's still in the testing phase, and I think that to be the safest in particular, in protecting our vulnerable populations and our society, we're going to have to be very careful about handwashing and social distancing and wearing masks when out in public for at least the near future.

Can you tell us about Duke's new drive-through testing site?

We are really proud about the ability to do drive-up testing, which we feel is safe for patients and for our staff, and set up an entire team with Duke staff to obtain samples. But you do have to have a test ordered by your provider to make sure you have someone responsible for your healthcare that will receive the result and partner with you on taking care of you in the future.

Pickett said Duke's drive-through site is capable of about 120 tests per day.

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