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Can we rely on 'herd immunity' to get rid of COVID-19 in Florida?

Scientists say, right now, the state isn't even close.

TAMPA, Fla — Experts are worried about pandemic fatigue setting in. Especially now that nearly everything is either opened or re-opening here in Florida.

There's concern over people potentially getting COVID-19 again as the U.S. reported its first reinfection case this week.

Many are turning to "herd immunity" to get rid of the virus in the state. That would mean the population has essentially become immune to a disease, making it harder to spread person-to-person.

"So there are basically three different ways that you can develop herd immunity. Number one is to have COVID, number two is to have a vaccine, there is no vaccine for COVID, number three is immunity from mom. So if you were born to a mother who had COVID, the potential exists that you could have immunity to it," Dr. Jill Roberts said.

The infectious disease expert with the University of South Florida says right now 3-4% of Florida's population has been infected with over 740,000 cases reported. 

If we want to reach a level of herd immunity, infectious disease experts say 70-95% of the population needs to have COVID-19 antibodies.

"There's not a chance that we're close to herd immunity in Florida. It's not a chance," Dr. Michael Teng said.

The virologist with USF Health says with no vaccine in sight, the state won't see herd immunity any time soon. 

But President Donald Trump says it's possible even without a vaccine.

"You'll develop like a herd mentality. It's going to be herd developed and that's going to happen," the President said in an ABC News townhall with undecided voters.

Doctors continue urging people not to get too comfortable. A rise in infections could give people a false sense of security.

"It worries me that people will decide, 'Okay, well, we're hearing this from above, but it's fine! I'm going to take my mask off, or I'm going to resume my normal activities.' Of course, that puts everybody at risk," Dr. Roberts said.

Scientists say it could take years to say Florida is immune to COVID-19. In order for the U.S. to achieve herd immunity, 230 million people would need to be infected with the virus.

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