The Centers for Disease Control has changed its definition of who is considered a “close contact” with someone who has coronvirus.
Previously, CDC defined close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes. That definition was used to determine when a person should be quarantined. Now, a “close contact” is defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person or persons for at least 15 minutes over a 24-hour period, indicating multiple brief encounters can contribute to spread of COVID-19.
While the CDC said data on the subject was limited, “15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition (of a close contact) for contact investigation,” the guidance noted.
The change comes after a study looked at the spread of coronavirus at a Vermont prison when an employee contracted the virus after brief, close contact with infected incarcerated people that added up to more than 15 minutes over the course of an 8-hour shift.
Time of exposure does contribute to rate of transmission, however, CDC said.
“In general, the longer you are around a person with COVID-19 (even if they do not have symptoms), the more likely you are to get infected,” CDC said.
People who have come into close contact with a coronavirus-infected person are supposed to quarantine and be tested.
According to the CDC, the number of cases in the country are on an upswing with 70% of health districts experiencing an increase. The average daily case county in the past week was 13% higher than the previous 7 days, CDC said.
After changing its definition of a “close contact,” New Braunfels ISD reported a sharp decrease in the number of students and faculty exposed to COVID-19.
By Robin Foster and E.J. Mundell
THURSDAY, Oct. 22, 2020 (HealthDay News) — In a move that widens the pool of people considered at risk for coronavirus infection, U.S. health officials released new guidance on Wednesday that redefines who’s considered a “close contact” of an infected individual.
The change, issued by the U.S. Centers of Disease Control and Prevention, will likely have the biggest impact in group settings where people are in repeated contact with others for brief periods over the course of a day, such as schools and workplaces, the Washington Post reported.
The CDC had previously defined a “close contact” as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. Now, a close contact will be defined as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period. State and local health departments rely on this definition to conduct contact tracing, the Post reported.
The new guidance arrives just as the country is “unfortunately seeing a distressing trend, with cases increasing in nearly 75 percent of the country,” Jay Butler, the CDC’s deputy director for infectious diseases, said during a rare media briefing Wednesday at CDC headquarters in Atlanta, the Post reported.
CDC scientists had been discussing the new guidance for several weeks, said an agency official who spoke on the condition of anonymity, the Post reported. Then came unsettling evidence in a government report published Wednesday: CDC and Vermont health officials had discovered the virus was contracted by a 20-year-old prison employee who in an eight-hour shift had 22 interactions — for a total of over 17 minutes — with individuals who later tested positive for the virus.
“Available data suggests that at least one of the asymptomatic [infectious detainees] transmitted” the virus during these brief encounters over the course of the employee’s workday, the report said.
Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security in Baltimore, called the updated guidance an important change.
“It’s easy to accumulate 15 minutes in small increments when you spend all day together — a few minutes at the water cooler, a few minutes in the elevator, and so on,” Rivers told the Post. “I expect this will result in many more people being identified as close contacts.”
At the same time, it’s not clear whether the multiple brief encounters were the only explanation for how the prison employee became infected, Rivers added. Other possibilities might have included airborne or surface transmission of the virus. She also noted that the new guidance “will be difficult for contact tracing programs to implement, and schools and businesses will have a difficult time operating under this guidance.”
Third COVID Surge Spreads Across the Country
Meanwhile, a third surge of coronavirus cases now has a firm grip on the United States, with an average of 59,000 new infections being reported across the country every day.
That tally is
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
Since the coronavirus pandemic started, the United States has recorded more than 8.2 million cases of COVID-19 and over 220,000 deaths.
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report shows that, since the coronavirus pandemic began, the U.S. has seen nearly 300,000 more deaths than in recent years.
Usually about 1.9 million deaths are reported from February to September. This year, it’s closer to 2.2 million. The largest increase – 54% – was among Hispanic Americans.
COVID-19 was involved in about two-thirds of the excess deaths, the CDC reported. That appears in line with Johns Hopkins University data putting the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus at more than 222,000.
The CDC also released updated definitions of the parameters of close contact with someone with COVID-19, which shows the coronavirus spreads much easier than previously believed.
Meanwhile, in Washington, the Senate failed by a 51-44 vote on Wednesday to pass a $500 billion emergency aid package that didn’t include $1,200 stimulus checks but would have given a federal boost to weekly unemployment benefits, sent $100 billion to schools and allocated funding for testing and vaccine development. The vote was 51-44, short of the 60 votes required to allow the legislation to move forward. Nearly all Democrats opposed it over concerns that more money was needed to combat the virus and help Americans.
Some significant developments:
- USA TODAY’s experts foresee that at least one COVID vaccine will be approved in coming months. Then comes the hard part: Distribution.
- Idaho is seeing its largest spike in cases since the pandemic began. In the past two weeks, infections are up 46.5%. The governor’s plan urges personal responsibility.
- First lady Melania Trump canceled her first campaign rally in months, citing a “lingering cough” from her coronavirus infection earlier this month.
📈 Today’s numbers: The U.S. has reported more than 8.3 million cases and 222,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The global totals: More than 41.1 million cases and 1.1 million deaths.
🗺️ Mapping coronavirus: Track the U.S. outbreak in your state.
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Puerto Rico shutters 911 call centers amid coronavirus outbreak
Both of Puerto Rico’s 911 call centers were shut down Wednesday night after several employees tested positive for the coronavirus, officials announced.
Public Safety Secretary Pedro Janer said people should call the island’s emergency management agency at 787-724-0124 or police at 787-343-2020 in an emergency. He said both agencies are operating 24 hours a day.
“This is serious,” said Nazario Lugo, president of Puerto Rico’s Association of Emergency Managers, adding he was shocked at the government’s temporary plan to handle emergencies in the U.S. territory of 3.2 million people.
It is the first time Puerto Rico has shut down its primary and secondary 911 call centers. Janer said the buildings will be thoroughly cleaned and that he will soon announce when operations
As the new coronavirus ravaged the White Mountain Apache Tribe in eastern Arizona, Eugenia Cromwell did her best to stay home to keep herself safe. Visits to the grocery store and post office were instead passed off to her daughter, with whom she shared a home near Whiteriver.
So it came as a surprise to the 79-year-old Apache woman when she learned in August she tested positive for COVID-19 along with two other people in her home. Knowing the virus could severely impact older adults, Cromwell feared for her life.
More than 15,000 members make up the White Mountain Apache Tribe, whose reservation spans 1.6 million acres of land across Gila, Apache and Navajo counties. Whiteriver, the tribe’s largest community and capital, is home to about 4,000 residents.
The tribe in early June surpassed the Navajo Nation in total number of COVID-19 cases per capita, meaning it had one of the highest infection rates in the country. By mid-August, about the time Cromwell tested positive for the virus, there were more than 2,300 identified COVID-19 cases and 38 known deaths.
However, the tribe’s number of new daily and active COVID-19 cases dropped in the last few months. The tribe’s number of COVID-19 related deaths through the pandemic also remained consistently low with a fatality rate on Wednesday of 1.6%, which is less than the state’s rate of 2.5% and country’s at 2.7%.
Health officials lend credit, in large part, to its robust contract tracing efforts on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. So does Cromwell, who tested negative for the virus about three weeks after her initial diagnosis.
Eugenia Cromwell, 78, is a high-risk White Mountain Apache Tribe COVID-19 patient. (Photo: Nick Oza/The Republic)
“I’m crying because I’m happy, these are wonderful people,” she said last month with tears in her eyes. “I’m so glad that I’m alive today.”
Officials go beyond just tracing, visiting some almost daily for check-ups
A healthcare provider on the morning of Sept. 10 paid a visit to Cromwell’s home to do a wellness check, reserved for patients considered high risk for complications from COVID-19.
Like clockwork, Cromwell quickly set up a chair on her front patio, wheeled out an oxygen concentrator and masked up. Several cicadas buzzed from a tree overhead while Victoria Moses, a health tech at Whiteriver Indian Hospital, checked Cromwell’s oxygen levels and asked her questions.
It was one of several visits made to Cromwell’s home since members of her family began testing positive for the virus in August. The wellness checks, in large part, involve monitoring a patient’s oxygen levels while sitting and walking — which for Cromwell also meant dodging a handful of ducks and a pig roaming her front yard.
“The patients get so used to our team that we’ll receive phone calls saying no one’s come to my house yet today,