CDC updates definition of 'close contact' to individuals with COVID-19

Henrietta Brewer
October 24, 2020

The change significantly expands the definition of who is a "close contact" of someone infected with COVID.

Almost 300,000 more people have died in the United States in 2020 during the coronavirus pandemic than expected based on historical trends, with about two-thirds of the deaths due to COVID-19 illnesses, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report released on Tuesday.

This updated guideline was announced through a CDC statement on Wednesday.

Wednesday's briefing comes as many states report increases in the number of COVID-19 cases. The CDC says the finding "highlights again the importance of wearing face masks to prevent transmission". "Smaller, more intimate gatherings of family, friends and neighbors may be driving transmission as well, especially as they move indoors".


A CDC official who spoke in condition of anonymity said that officials and scientists have been discussing the guidance about transmission for several weeks.

The employee interacted with infected prisoners 22 times over the course of his 8-hour shift, with only short windows of exposure. And while President Donald Trump claims that people are exhausted of hearing about COVID-19, saying "whatever, just leave us alone". At least one of the positive IDPs during the brief encounters was asymptomatic, the CDC stated.

"A primary objective of contact tracing is to identify persons with higher risk exposures and therefore higher probabilities of developing infection, which can guide decisions on quarantining and work restrictions", stated the CDC.

One other corrections worker whose contact did meet the old definition also tested positive for the coronavirus.


Epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, Caitlin Rivers, said that the updated guidance is an important move.

"The earlier standard for a significant exposure was somewhat artificial, but the goal was to provide a target for contact tracers so that they would identify the contacts who were most at risk of infection", Watson said.

The officer had no other close contact exposures to anyone with the coronavirus.

Official tallies of COVID-19-related deaths could be limited by factors such as the use of diagnostic testing, including postmortem testing, and inaccurate cause of death information on death certificates, according to the report. And yes, the US still leads the world in not only the number of cases but the number of deaths from the virus.


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