Our Lady of the Lake infectious disease specialist Catherine O’Neal says since a vaccine could be over a year away, our best hope to stop coronavirus is for state residents to slowly build up “herd immunity”.

When you get a virus and recover, you make antibodies that prevent you from getting the virus again for a period of time. O’Neal says because 80% of cases are mild or asymptomatic, it’s in the best interest of those most vulnerable for there to be widespread herd immunity.

“We hope that greater than 50% of us will ultimately become infected over a slow period of time, I’m hoping by the late fall to winter,” says O’Neal, who warns we do not currently know how long those anti-bodies will last once formed.

O’Neal gave an example of how herd immunity works to Jim Engster on Talk Louisiana.

“If I have immunity, and you have immunity and then there’s another person at a party that doesn’t have immunity, and somebody new walks in with coronavirus, if they hit you and I first and we are immune, the virus will never get to the non-immune person because we won’t spread it to the next person,” says O’Neal.

O’Neal says she expects even with social distancing and shelter in place orders in effect, a majority of Louisianans are still expected to catch the coronavirus.

“These measures are not to keep us from never getting the novel coronavirus, they are to keep us from getting the novel coronavirus all at the same time,” says O’Neal.