The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has broadened the definition of “close contact” for purposes of Covid 19 contact tracing and quarantining requirements, which could cause headaches for employers.
Originally, the CDC had defined a “close contact” as a person who had spent 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of someone who was infectious.
The revised definition now is “someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”
The key change is that the 15 minutes of exposure is now cumulative over a 24-hour period., explain attorneys Thomas S. Lee and John Kindschuh of the law firm of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.
They point out that in a workplace, even if employees are only in the same space for a few minutes at a time, those relatively short events can cumulatively add up to more than 15 minutes and constitute a close contact.
“Since many state and local government Covid 19 orders rely on the CDC definition of ‘close contact’ to determine who should stay home, monitor and be tested, the expanded definition will have repercussions across the country,” the lawyers say.
Businesses must take steps to prevent interactions within six feet that add up to more than 15 minutes of contact. Lee and Kindschuh add, “Businesses may need to re-train their employees so that they follow the correct contact tracing protocols, and additionally, businesses may need to re-write Covid 19 protocols and standard operating procedures to reflect the new definition.”