A release from the V.I. Department of Health says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have expanded the definition of “close contact”* to include being within six feet of an infected person for short periods (one minute or less) that add up to 15 minutes over 24-hours.
The new definition is based on a CDC report about a correctional officer in rural Vermont who developed COVID-19 after “close contact” with six asymptomatic prisoners. Surveillance footage shows the officer walking within six feet of the prisoners (who weren’t always wearing a mask) for a total of 15 minutes of “close contact” throughout an eight-hour shift.** The prisoners were transferred from a facility with higher COVID-19 rates. In the weeks before infection, and the officer wasn’t near any known infected people. The infection rate of the area surrounding the prison was 20 per 100,000 people.
The CDC also recognizes that sometimes COVID-19 is spread by airborne transmission. However, it is more likely spread by “close contact” and less likely spread through contaminated surfaces.
***COVID-19 can spread through small droplets and particles that linger in the air for minutes to hours. These droplets could infect people who are further than six feet from the infected person or after that person has left the space.
Stay safe by avoiding germs and respiratory droplets.
Avoid crowded indoor areas (work break room, stores with many cars outside, waiting rooms). Remember to always keep at least six feet away from others.
Ventilation is important. Avoid waiting in air-conditioned buildings by conducting business outside and asking others to do the same.
The fresh air from open windows dramatically reduces exposure to infectious droplets. Take advantage of the breeze, install outside-facing vents. Use fans to blow in outdoor air or create a cross-breeze.
Cover your mouth and nose with a mask when around others. Germs move in and out through your nose; please cover it with your mask. Try taking a break outside, away from people who don’t live with you, if you are having trouble keeping the mask on.
Wash your hands often with soap and water for a minimum of 20 seconds. This is the same time it takes to sing the “Happy Birthday Song” twice.
When you can’t wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol.
Routinely clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces: door handles, remote controls, phones, tablets, keyboards, light switches, credit card machines, pens, etc.
If you don’t have an EPA registered disinfectant, use a 70 percent alcohol solution or 1/3 cup of bleach mixed with water (use a clean, empty spray bottle, and make a new bleach solution daily)
If you or a loved one show COVID-19 symptoms or have been in “close contact” with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, isolate from others and contact the V.I. Department of Health at 712-6299 or 776-1519. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 and let them know if you have been infected or believe that you may be infected.
For more information on the new CDC guidance, see the links below:
*“Close contact”: 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.
** “COVID-19 in a Correctional Facility Employee Following Multiple Brief Exposures to Persons with COVID-19 — Vermont, July–August 2020.”:
*** Sometimes COVID-19 is spread through airborne transmission: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/how-covid-spreads.html