The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday expanded the definition of “close contact” to someone with a confirmed case of Covid-19 from 15 consecutive minutes within six feet to 15 total minutes or more, within six feet, over a 24 hour period.
The revised definition is based on new evidence about transmission of the virus from a correctional facility in Vermont.
A 20-year-old prison employee contracted the coronavirus during the course of his eight-hour shift during which he had multiple, albeit brief, encounters with six asymptomatic incarcerated individuals on July 28.
The employee, who was wearing a cloth mask, a gown and eye protection during each interaction, spent a total of 17 minutes with the incarcerated individuals during his shift.
The six individuals had arrived from an out of state facility, were quarantined, and awaiting Covid-19 test results – on July 29, all six tested positive.
They wore face masks during some, but not all of their interactions with the employee.
The employee began showing symptoms August 4, and tested positive August 11 – he reported no other exposure to the coronavirus and had not traveled outside Vermont.
The change in CDC guidelines could lead to a reimagining of guidance on gatherings like schools, workplaces and restaurants, and a greater emphasis on the importance of social distancing and face masks.