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CDC Broadens Definition of "Close Contact" for Purposes of COVID-19 Contact Tracing CDC Broadens Definition of "Close Contact" for Purposes of COVID-19 Contact Tracing

CDC Broadens Definition of "Close Contact" for Purposes of COVID-19 Contact Tracing

On October 21, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced a new, broader definition of “close contact” for purposes of COVID-19 contract tracing. Previously, being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 consecutive minutes was considered “close contact.” Under the new expanded CDC standard, “close contact” is defined as being “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.” (Emphasized added.) In other words, under the new standard, multiple brief periods of exposure within a 24-hour period should be aggregated in determining whether the 15-minute threshold is met.

As was the case under the prior standard, the CDC continues to advise contact tracers that the use of PPE (such as N-95 masks) or cloth face coverings should not be taken into account in determining whether a close contact has occurred.

Businesses and organizations should review and update COVID-19 protocols and contact-tracing plans to reflect this new guidance. The Ice Miller COVID-19 Task Force will continue to monitor emerging COVID-19 guidance from the CDC and other agencies to help you keep your COVID-19 response plan up to date.

More information about this new definition can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/php/contact-tracing/contact-tracing-plan/appendix.html#contact.

This publication is intended for general information purposes only and does not and is not intended to constitute legal advice. It speaks only to guidance available as of October 6, 2020. The reader should consult with legal counsel to determine how laws or decisions discussed herein apply to the reader’s specific circumstances.
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