What the CDC’s updated definition of a COVID-19 ‘close contact’ means

October 23, 2020
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    As more information is learned about COVID-19, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to update its guidelines.

    Earlier this week, the CDC released a new definition of what it means to be in “close contact” with someone who has been infected with the novel virus.

    Previously, the CDC had said close contact meant spending 15 consecutive minutes or more within 6 feet of someone infected with coronavirus.

    The latest 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.”

    So, if you are near someone who tested positive for a shorter amount of time, but have multiple interactions with them over the course of a day, that can still put you at risk.

    “There was nothing ever ‘magical’ about 15 minutes, that was just what the epidemiology was showing when most transmission occurred,” Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins University Center for Health Security and an infectious disease expert, told HuffPost.

    “There are instances where a person has multiple contacts that are less than 15 minutes over a course of a day. That puts them at significant risk for contracting the virus.”

    According to the AP, the definition change may also lead health departments to expand contract tracing to cases in which they previously believed exposure to an infected individual was considered too brief for transmission.

    With the new update, the CDC still advises anyone who has been in close contact with a person infected with COVID-19 to quarantine for two weeks.

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