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COVID-19 Close Contact: What You Need To Know About The CDC’s New Definition

The CDC released a new set of guidelines that define who, exactly, is considered a “close contact.” Here’s what that means for you.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a new set of guidelines, one that relates specifically to those people who are considered a “close contact” of someone infected with the coronavirus.

Close contact was previously defined by the CDC as a person who was within 6 feet of distance of someone infected with the virus for a period of 15 minutes or more. The new guidelines expand on this definition, explaining that close contact is now someone who’s within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative amount of time of 15 minutes or more within the span of 24 hours.

It’s very confusing.

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While this definition doesn’t seem to make an impact in the majority of people’s daily lives who are working from home, it could provide some helpful guidance for people who attend school and office settings. While the 15 minute mark isn’t set in stone — you can get COVID from spending more or less time with an infected person — it’s an effective rule when there’s several people coming in and out of a building.

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Photo by Matthew Henry via Burst

“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,” explains John Hopkins epidemiologist Caitlin Rivers to the Washington Post. “I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts.”

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Another aspect that this new guideline tweak is contact tracing; more people now fall within these categories, increasing the pool of exposures and possible infections and thus resulting in more people who should isolate or quarantine.

While every day we’re discovering new aspects of the coronavirus, one thing remains clear: wearing face masks and keeping 6 feet of distance between others remains the most efficient ways of curbing the virus, even if they’re not infallible.

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