CDC redefines COVID-19 close contact, adds brief encounters


The definition change was triggered by a report on that case of a 20-year-old Vermont correctional officer, who was diagnosed with a coronavirus infection in August.

For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes within 6 feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. The CDC released the updated guidelines on Wednesday, noting people should quarantine if they have multiple close encounters with an infected person amounting to 15 minutes in one day.

The most recent CDC update will greatly increase the number of people who warrant a considerable infection risk, The Washington Post reports.

Butler made the comments during a press briefing with CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield and Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar. Now, a "close contact" is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person or persons for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, indicating multiple brief encounters can contribute to spread of COVID-19.

The excess novel coronavirus deaths would be in addition to the official toll of 216,025 published by the CDC on October 15, the report said.

Anyone who has been in close contact with a COVID-19 patient is advised to quarantine for two weeks. The next day, all six inmates received positive test results.

"CDC is science-based and data-driven, and as a effect as we get more data to understand the science of COVID, we're going to continue to incorporate that in our recommendations", CDC Director Robert Redfield, MD, said in a news briefing on Wednesday. Close contact, in addition to being within six feet, can also include sharing eating or drinking utensils, hugging, kissing, providing home care to someone infected or if someone were to sneeze or cough on you. The employee had 22 interactions totaling 17 minutes during an 8-hour shift. The correctional officer wore a cloth mask, gown and goggles during all interactions, and gloves for most interactions. At times, the prisoners wore masks, but there were encounters in cell doorways or in a recreational room where prisoners did not have them on, the report said. "And clarifying that new science, that new data into our contact recommendations, is what you're alluding to".

"In general, the longer you are around a person with COVID-19 (even if they do not have symptoms), the more likely you are to get infected", CDC said.