CDC expands its definition of a COVID-19 'close contact'

Brendan Morrow
·2 min read

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in a new guidance has expanded its definition of a COVID-19 close contact.

The CDC's latest guidance defines having a close contact with someone infected with COVID-19 as being within six feet of the individual for 15 or more cumulative minutes during a 24 hour period, The Washington Post reports. The CDC previously defined a close contact as being within six feet of an infected person for 15 consecutive minutes.

The new definition, The Associated Press writes, takes into account "briefer but repeated encounters" with an infected person. It specifies the 15 minutes of exposure within six feet is "added together over a 24-hour period," and so as an example, this could be "three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes)."

CDC Director Robert Redfield in a statement said that "as we get more data and understand this COVID we're going to continue to incorporate that in our recommendations." With this change, the Post noted the CDC was "greatly" expanding the group of people considered at risk of contracting COVID-19.

It's easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers told The Washington Post. "I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts. This change underscores the importance of vigilant social distancing — even multiple brief interactions can pose a risk.

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