CDC updates its guidelines for close Covid-19 contact after prison guard gets infected

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its definition of a close contact with a Covid-19 patient to include multiple, brief exposures,...

Posted: Oct 21, 2020 7:28 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2020 7:00 AM

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has updated its definition of a close contact with a Covid-19 patient to include multiple, brief exposures, after a Vermont prison worker appears to have been infected that way, CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield said Wednesday.

The new definition includes exposures adding up to a total of 15 minutes spent six feet or closer to an infected person. Previously, the CDC defined a close contact as 15 minutes of continuous exposure to an infected individual.

The agency changed the definition after a report from Vermont of a corrections officer who became infected after several brief interactions with coronavirus-positive inmates -- none of them lasting 15 minutes, but adding up over time.

The corrections officer never spent much time with any particular inmate, but opened and closed cell doors, collected soiled linen, opened doors to shower and recreation rooms for inmates, conducted health checks and dispensed medication, Julia Pringle, a CDC officer working with the Vermont Department of Health, and colleagues reported.

The six inmates had no symptoms and had traveled from out-of-state facilities while they were awaiting coronavirus test results, Pringle's team reported in the CDC's weekly report, the MMWR.

His 22 short encounters added up to about 17 minutes of total exposure, the team calculated.

The data suggests at least one of the six inmates transmitted the virus to the officer during one of these brief encounters. The six inmates wore microfiber cloth masks for some, but not all interactions with the officer. 'During all interactions, the correctional officer wore a microfiber cloth mask, gown, and eye protection (goggles),' the team wrote.

Redfield said it's an example of real-world science informing policy. The CDC has now updated its definition of what constitutes a close contact.

'As we get more data and understand the science of Covid, we are going to incorporate that in our recommendations,' Redfield said at a news conference held at CDC headquarters in Atlanta.

'Originally, contact that was considered to be high risk for potential exposure to Covid was someone within six feet for more than 15 minutes,' Redfield added.

The new data is being incorporated into recommendations, he said.

'In an MMWR published today, CDC and Vermont health officials found that multiple, short and non-consecutive exposures to persons confirmed to have COVID-19 led to transmission,' the CDC said in a statement.

'The CDC website now defines a close contact as someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. Previous language defined a close contact as someone who spent at least 15 minutes within 6 feet of a confirmed case.'

The website notes that this is not an exact science

'Factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity (closer distance likely increases exposure risk), the duration of exposure (longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), whether the infected individual has symptoms (the period around onset of symptoms is associated with the highest levels of viral shedding), if the infected person was likely to generate respiratory aerosols (e.g., was coughing, singing, shouting), and other environmental factors (crowding, adequacy of ventilation, whether exposure was indoors or outdoors),' it says.

And it's clear what people should do, the CDC says.

'Wearing a mask is one of the most effective steps you can take to help stop the spread of COVID-19,' the CDC said in the statement.

'A mask can protect other people from the virus-containing particles exhaled by someone who has COVID-19. As many as half of all people who have COVID-19 don't show symptoms, so it's critical to wear a mask because you could be carrying the virus and not know it,' it added.

'While a mask provides some limited protection to the wearer, each additional person who wears a mask increases the individual protection for everyone. When more people wear masks, more people are protected.'

Huntsville/Madison
Mostly Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 57° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 46°
Muscle Shoals
Mostly Cloudy
46° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 41°
Huntsville/Madison
Cloudy
50° wxIcon
Hi: 56° Lo: 34°
Feels Like: 46°
Decatur
Mostly Cloudy
45° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 41°
Fort Payne
Mostly Cloudy
48° wxIcon
Hi: 58° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 48°
WAAY Radar
WAAY WAAY-TV Cam
WAAY Temperatures

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 439442

Reported Deaths: 6657
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson644371007
Mobile31435569
Madison28158217
Tuscaloosa21492275
Montgomery19873332
Shelby19248132
Baldwin17128189
Lee13137107
Morgan12594142
Etowah12070181
Calhoun11496206
Marshall10420123
Houston8988164
Limestone832081
Cullman8257124
Elmore8183110
DeKalb7871107
Lauderdale7847107
St. Clair7808130
Talladega6445112
Walker6028183
Jackson599145
Colbert548694
Blount546286
Autauga535862
Coffee460764
Dale409685
Franklin374150
Russell354215
Chilton344373
Covington338580
Escambia334544
Tallapoosa3143109
Dallas312996
Chambers303470
Clarke298036
Pike262431
Lawrence253355
Marion253161
Winston233342
Bibb222348
Geneva210247
Marengo208231
Pickens199531
Hale184944
Barbour180538
Fayette177829
Butler173160
Cherokee165131
Henry159525
Monroe152021
Randolph145536
Washington141727
Clay129746
Crenshaw123745
Macon121937
Cleburne121525
Lamar119922
Lowndes114836
Wilcox107922
Bullock103328
Perry99918
Conecuh97822
Sumter90527
Greene77923
Coosa63418
Choctaw51924
Out of AL00
Unassigned00

Tennessee Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 705876

Reported Deaths: 8819
CountyCasesDeaths
Shelby783871172
Davidson72746692
Knox39988439
Hamilton35697337
Rutherford34042295
Unassigned23786134
Williamson22041144
Sumner18744232
Out of TN1629183
Montgomery15092149
Wilson14797164
Sullivan12932220
Blount12321133
Washington12148204
Maury11264131
Bradley1116398
Sevier10787121
Putnam10170152
Madison9309183
Robertson788687
Hamblen7213117
Anderson6983114
Greene6749115
Tipton636869
Coffee576982
Gibson5739116
Dickson557082
Cumberland554476
Bedford543091
Roane532481
Lawrence522169
McMinn520374
Carter5191116
Warren510455
Loudon506351
Jefferson493378
Dyer485286
Monroe470363
Hawkins458672
Franklin422865
Fayette412651
Obion405882
Rhea390657
Lincoln387246
Marshall356538
Cocke355760
Cheatham348531
Weakley345148
Henderson337059
Campbell336440
Giles332476
Carroll317160
White316946
Hardeman314754
Hardin305450
Lauderdale298834
Macon293951
Wayne270124
Henry267858
Overton259546
McNairy247142
DeKalb247042
Haywood245047
Marion235332
Smith234830
Trousdale230715
Scott229732
Hickman228935
Claiborne227432
Fentress216734
Grainger216039
Johnson205034
Morgan194616
Crockett183138
Bledsoe178011
Chester178039
Unicoi170045
Cannon161420
Lake158421
Decatur148828
Polk148517
Union144725
Grundy143122
Sequatchie141119
Humphreys137217
Benton133835
Lewis130921
Meigs118216
Stewart111220
Jackson105923
Clay96526
Perry95925
Houston94824
Moore8349
Pickett69020
Van Buren6738
Hancock4187

Community Events