While attention remains focused on the number of COVID-19 deaths and new cases, a separate statistic — the number of recovered patients — may be equally important to the goal of minimizing the pandemic’s infection rate as shelter-in-place orders are lifted.

The presumed immunity of those who have recovered from the infection could allow them to safely substitute for susceptible people in certain high-contact occupations such as healthcare. Dubbed “shield immunity,” the anticipated protection against short-term reinfection could allow recovered patients to expand their interactions with infected and susceptible people, potentially reducing overall transmission rates when interactions are permitted to expand.

New modeling of the virus’ behavior suggests that an intervention strategy based on shield immunity could reduce the risk of allowing the higher levels

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