Coronavirus: CDC changes definition of ‘close contact’

CDC Reduces Consecutive Minutes Of COVID-19 Exposure Needed To Be A 'Close Contact'

Coronavirus: CDC changes definition of ‘close contact’

The CDC update 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". That includes multiple, but brief, encounters, one or two minutes at a time.

"A primary objective of contact tracing is to identify persons with higher risk exposures and therefore higher probabilities of developing infection, which can guide decisions on quarantining and work restrictions", stated the CDC.

Azar provided an updated timeline on when we can expect vaccine to be distributed and who will receive the first doses.

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While the CDC said data on the subject was limited, "15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition (of a close contact) for contact investigation", the guidance noted.

The expanded definition is the result of a CDC study involving a 20-year-old correctional officer in Vermont diagnosed with COVID-19 in August. A report on the outbreak was published Wednesday in the CDC's Morbidity and Morality Weekly Report. The next day, all six inmates received positive test results.

Previously, the CDC described "close contact" as being within six feet of a COVID-19-infected individual for 15 minutes. In other words, if you spent five minutes near an infected individual at 8 a.m., four minutes with the same individual at noon, and six minutes with that individual at 7:30 p.m., you're now considered to have had "close contact" and could have very well been infected yourself. People who have been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus need to quarantine and stay home for 14 days. The video showed that the officer had spent just about a minute at a time within 6 feet of prisoners who were later revealed to be presymptomatic. The prisoners he interacted with were wearing masks during most of the encounters, with the exception of a few contacts with people as they stood in the doors of their cells or in the prison gym.

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"This reinforces the importance of the fact that people with or without symptoms can be highly infectious", Schaffner said.

A top official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday that experts are seeing a "distressing trend" as coronavirus cases surge across the United States, particularly in the Midwest.

"As we get more data and understand the science of COVID, we are going to incorporate that in our recommendations", Redfield said at a news conference held at CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

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