CDC Revises Close Contact Definition for Determining COVID Exposure

On October 21, 2020, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) revised its definition of “close contact” for determining whether someone has been exposed to COVID-19. Formerly, close contact was defined as being within six feet of an infected person for 15 consecutive minutes or more. Now, close contact is defined as being within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before the person developed symptoms or was tested for COVID-19 (i.e., when the specimen was collected).

This revised definition will increase the number of employees being considered exposed and subject to quarantine. Formerly, employees who were near an infected person for only brief periods would not have been considered exposed. Now, employers will have to examine the cumulative amount of time employees spent near an infected person to determine exposure and next steps.

The CDC recommends that most employees exposed to COVID-19 be sent home for 14 days to monitor for symptoms. Critical infrastructure employees who have been exposed may continue to work onsite with extra precautions as long as they do not develop symptoms.

State and local public health guidance is expected to be updated to conform to this new definition. Where possible, employers with employees working onsite may wish to be even more proactive about reducing the amount of time employees spend in close quarters. Contact us with your questions about COVID exposure situations.