|On October 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced updated COVID-19 guidance, specifically the definition of “close contact.” The expanded definition states that the 15-minute exposure period should be measured based on a cumulative amount of time over 24 hours and not just a single 15-minute interaction.
The previous definition of close contact was someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a person with a confirmed case.
The CDC now defines close contact as “someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset or for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”
Why the change?
The updated definition was announced the same day the CDC released a case study about the agency and the Vermont Department of Health (VDH) finding that multiple short exposures to people confirmed to have COVID-19 led to transmission of the virus.
During a contact tracing investigation described in the study, it was found that COVID-19 was transmitted to a correctional facility employee who interacted with people later found to be COVID-19 positive. The employee had 22 interactions totaling 17 minutes during an 8-hour shift.
As a result of the expanded definition, contact tracing will be more complicated. The CDC recommends that a person quarantine for 14 days if he or she experiences a close contact exposure with someone who later is determined to have been COVID-19 positive at the time of contact. The new guidance will require employers to count numerous short-duration contacts over the course of a work shift, possibly resulting in more close contacts that will require quarantine.
With flu season and COVID-19 on the rise, it is more important than ever to continue to social distance and wear masks when you are within 6 feet of others. The health and safety of our employees are our top priority, and everyone must play their part in order maintain a safe and healthy work environment.