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The ‘Never COVID Cohort’: Half the Population That’s Been Unharmed by COVID-19

Zack Miller | The PhoenixLoyola students who have yet to get COVID-19 said they avoided it through masking, getting vaccinated and just being conscious.

Chloe Rafferty, a first-year studying journalism, is a part of the 57% of the population who have not gotten COVID-19, despite returning to in person classes at Loyola. Rafferty is among other Loyola students who haven’t tested positive that said they masked and followed protocols.

“Generally making COVID-conscious decisions instead of being careless with my actions,” Rafferty, 19, said. 

As the world inches closer to year three of the COVID-19 pandemic, coming down with the virus seems inevitable for some — and others have even caught it multiple times. 

But scientists are studying the other half of the population, the 57% who have never gotten COVID-19, coined the “Never COVID Cohort” by researchers, according to the CDC. 

While scientists are only just beginning to research why some people seem to avoid the virus, they haven’t pinned down whether it’s because of genetics, blood type, mere responsibility of practicing precautions or pure coincidence. 

A group of over 60 international researchers recently began conducting studies to try and explain why some people have gone almost three years without catching COVID-19. 

As of now, the researchers have been comparing DNA of people who have gotten COVID-19 and those who haven’t — their studies were posted in the peer reviewed Nature Immunology Journal.

Researchers at Imperial College London believe some people may have more effective T cells  – cells in the bloodstream that kill viruses – to fight the virus before any infection begins.

Nallely Mora, a research professor at Loyola who specializes in epidemiology, said she thinks it’s still too early to be conducting these studies accurately. Mora said that it’s hard to get accurate data because many people could have gotten the virus but were asymptomatic, and if they weren’t testing frequently there is no way to know. 

Mora also said the studies relating blood type to COVID-19 immunity are inaccurate, and encouraged everyone to double check information because some studies aren’t “worth it.” 

She said if scientific studies can accurately find people who were in close contact and never tested positive, the studies may be worthwhile to investigate for better vaccines against COVID-19 variants.

“We need to be able to adapt and predict and figure out more circulating variants to get people vaccinated faster,” Mora said. 

Mora said while people who have truly never gotten the virus can be worthwhile to study, it shouldn’t be the focus right now in terms of ending the pandemic. 

“I don’t think we should focus on, at this point, those who haven’t gotten any infection,” Mora said. “Think about it from a public health perspective, how are you going to implement that, population wise? How are we going to transfer this knowledge to make a difference?”

The fact of the matter is scientists still have no definite reason as to why some people haven’t gotten COVID-19, and these studies are still in the preliminary stages. 

Julia Paella, a senior studying english and classics, said she thinks she hasn’t gotten it because she’s been very careful when in public, but is surprised because she worked in a grocery store and retail.

“I was very scared of it early on, but these days I’m about as scared of it as if like getting the flu,” Paella, 21, said. 

Paella said at busy events she wears a cloth mask over a medical mask, a singular cloth mask for “everyday life” and still wears her mask everywhere on campus at Loyola. 

“I really do think a lot of it is just kind of luck,” Paella said. “I would be lying if I said I didn’t feel a little bit morally superior, but I’m not gonna rub it in anyone’s face.”

Maria Haddad, first-year studying neuroscience, said she swears by Emergency-C and takes it any time she even starts to feel sick. Haddad also said she’s worn surgical masks throughout the pandemic and doubles up when she’s in a busy place. 

Haddad said she’s particularly surprised she still hasn’t gotten COVID-19 because her whole family got it while she was home, and her roommate has gotten it twice. 

“I used to be really nervous about getting COVID, it used to be a big fear of mine especially when we started hearing about post COVID symptoms,” Haddad, 18, said. 

 But, two years into the pandemic, Haddad said she’s proud of herself for staying safe, following protocols and not catching the virus. 

“It does give me a superiority complex, like ‘I’m never getting COVID now,’” Haddad said. 

Nallely Mora, a research professor at Loyola who specializes in epidemiology, said she thinks it’s still too early to be conducting these studies accurately. Mora said that it’s hard to get accurate data because many people could have gotten the virus but were asymptomatic, and if they weren’t testing frequently there is no way to know. 

Mora also said the studies relating blood type to COVID-19 immunity are inaccurate, and encouraged everyone to double check information because some studies aren’t “worth it.” 

She said if scientific studies can accurately find people who were in close contact and never tested positive, the studies may be worthwhile to investigate for better vaccines against COVID-19 variants.

“We need to be able to adapt and predict and figure out more circulating variants to get people vaccinated faster,” Mora said. 

Mora said while people who have truly never gotten the virus can be worthwhile to study, it shouldn’t be the focus right now in terms of ending the pandemic. 

“I don’t think we should focus on, at this point, those who haven’t gotten any infection,” Mora said. “Think about it from a public health perspective, how are you going to implement that, population wise? How are we going to transfer this knowledge to make a difference?”

The fact of the matter is scientists still have no definite reason as to why some people haven’t gotten COVID-19, and these studies are still in the preliminary stages. 

Juliana Logi, a first-year studying communications, said she’s surprised she has yet to get COVID-19, but thinks it has something to do with being on strict quarantine until March 2021. 

“I’m just surprised, but very thankful I haven’t gotten it,” Logi, 18, said. 

Logi said one of her close friends that she was in contact with ended up testing positive, but she never did. 

Logi also said she’s still wearing her mask even in common spaces where it’s not required at Loyola. In the beginning of the pandemic she wore N95s, but she’s now switched to surgical masks and doubles up if it’s a crowded place. 

“I don’t go to parties or crowded places or bars or anything like that,” Logi said. “It’s just not my vibe but even if it was, there’s videos of other people — and I’m not shaming — but they’re not wearing masks, that just makes me uncomfortable.” 

Maria Haddad, first-year studying neuroscience, said she swears by Emergency-C and takes it any time she even starts to feel sick. Hadden also said she’s worn surgical masks throughout the pandemic and doubles up when she’s in a busy place. 

Haddad said she’s particularly surprised she still hasn’t gotten COVID-19 because her whole family got it while she was home, and her roommate has gotten it twice. 

“I used to be really nervous about getting COVID, it used to be a big fear of mine especially when we started hearing about post COVID symptoms,” Haddad, 18, said. 

 But, two years into the pandemic, Haddad said she’s proud of herself for staying safe, following protocols and not catching the virus. 

“It does give me a superiority complex, like ‘I’m never getting COVID now,’” Haddad said. 

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