CDC updates the definition of ‘close contact’ and COVID-19

CDC updates the definition of 'close contact' and COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its definition of “close contact” with someone infected with COVID-19.

From the CDC website:

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.

Before this update, the CDC defined “close contact” as 15 minutes or longer with someone infected with COVID-19. The contact was not cumulative. For example, if you were within 6 feet of someone infected with COVID-19, but the exposure lasted only 14 minutes, 30 seconds, you were most likely good to go. Under the updated definition, if you are in close contact with an infected person for 14 minutes, 30 seconds, and then eight hours later, you are in close contact with someone else infected for less than a minute, you need to isolate and get tested.

I always assumed contact was cumulative

Personally, I’ve always conducted myself as though exposure to COVID-19 was cumulative. It’s why I stopped driving for Uber and Lyft on March 13.

How can it not be? It’s not like viruses lodged to the walls of your nasal cavities have internal clocks and will self destruct if no other copies of the viruses join them within 15 minutes.

Will this change anything?

Just because the CDC has officially redefined what constitutes close contact exposure is doesn’t mean anyone in power will change procedures. For example, the CDC has cautioned people against wearing gaiters and face shields.

CDC updates the definition of 'close contact' and COVID-19

Lots of people still wear gaiters. In Lowes last month, I watched an employee take off his CDC-approved cloth face covering and put on a single-layer gaiter. He then approached me and asked if I needed any help.

Before this pandemic, I would have assumed if something as dangerous and contagious as COVID-19 happened, people would have made the CDC website the nation’s most visited website. That did not happen. A lot of people seem to not care what the CDC or other experts have to say. I would never have thought a person’s politics would have been a factor in how they respond to a deadly pandemic.

I was wrong.

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