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The CDC Revises Definition of "Close Contact" for COVID-19 Exposure

The CDC Revises Definition of "Close Contact" for COVID-19 Exposure

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has rewritten its definition of who is at risk of contracting coronavirus to include people who come into close contact with infected individuals in multiple short bursts over a 24-hour period.

The updated definition states: 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. As a result, employers should reevaluate both their social distancing protocols and their contact tracing protocols to ensure full compliance with CDC standards.

Contact tracing is the activity of working with a patient who has been diagnosed with an infectious disease to identify and provide support to people (contacts) who may have been infected through exposure to the patient. This process prevents further transmission of disease by separating people who have, or may have, an infectious disease from people who do not.

The first change to a cumulative approach for assessing close contact may require changes to employer social distancing policies. To date, many employers have based their policies around the concept that limited, incidental close contact does not trigger an exclusion obligation. With this new definition, those same contacts can trigger exclusion if they aggregate to 15 minutes in a 24-hour period. For instance, employers should evaluate whether additional measures are needed in elevators, passageways, printers, and other places where brief encounters are more likely to occur.

Also, under the CDC’s guidelines, contact tracing must be conducted for close contacts of confirmed or probable COVID-19 patients. The new CDC guidelines expand both the type of qualifying contact and the period of qualifying contact. As a result, employers may need to revise their current contact tracing program to look further back following a given incident and questionnaires or other means of interviewing potentially affected individuals should be revised to capture cumulative time rather than discrete 15 minute contact events.

For any questions regarding the new Close contact COVID-19 guidelines n the workplace, you can visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention website at

This information provided on this website is meant to provide general information and does not constitute as legal/ medical advice.

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