CDC revises meaning of “close contact” to include multiple brief interactions

by Peter Heck · Oct 22nd, 2020 9:43 am

Last Updated Oct 24th, 2020 at 10:27 am

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention again updated its coronavirus guidelines, this time tweaking its definition of what constitutes "close contact" with someone with COVID-19.

For the last several months, the CDC has defined close contact as maintaining less than a 6-foot distance with someone COVID-19-positive for at least 15 minutes straight. With this most recent update, that changes to being an accumulated 15 minutes or more within a 24-hour period. This means short, but repeated exposure counts.

The guidance change will also alter contract tracing by state and local health departments. Individuals who had brief interactions with a coronavirus-positive person previously would not have needed to quarantine, but now will.

The change in policy was reportedly caused by a singular incident with a coronavirus-positive Vermont corrections officer who managed to infect six transferred prisoners despite wearing a mask, goggles, and interacting with each only briefly. In his 8-hour shift, video footage showed he accumulated 17 minutes of interactions total.

"As we get more data and understand this COVID we're going to continue to incorporate that in our recommendations," said CDC Director Robert Redfield.


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