The CDC’s Definition of 15 Minutes Just Changed

At the beginning of the school year, one of my siblings shared the absolutely brilliant idea his children’s school had: Have the kids get up and run around the classroom every 14 minutes so that no one sat next to anyone for 15 minutes. Therefore, no one would meet the quarantine criteria for exposure if someone tested positive!

Incredibly brilliant and also possibly the stupidest thing I’ve heard during this pandemic. And I’ve heard A LOT.

Finally, the CDC is catching up with this little loophole and slamming it shut. They updated the definition of 15 minutes of exposure to include cumulative minutes.

Here’s their new definition of contact:

Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, 2 days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

* Individual exposures added together over a 24-hour period (e.g., three 5-minute exposures for a total of 15 minutes). Data are limited, making it difficult to precisely define “close contact;” however, 15 cumulative minutes of exposure at a distance of 6 feet or less can be used as an operational definition for contact investigation. Factors to consider when defining close contact include proximity (closer distance likely increases exposure risk), the duration of exposure (longer exposure time likely increases exposure risk), whether the infected individual has symptoms (the period around onset of symptoms is associated with the highest levels of viral shedding), if the infected person was likely to generate respiratory aerosols (e.g., was coughing, singing, shouting), and other environmental factors (crowding, adequacy of ventilation, whether exposure was indoors or outdoors). Because the general public has not received training on proper selection and use of respiratory PPE, such as an N95, the determination of close contact should generally be made irrespective of whether the contact was wearing respiratory PPE.  At this time, differential determination of close contact for those using fabric face coverings is not recommended.

This definition makes a lot more sense, and you need to incorporate it into your notifications for employees. Should you have an employee test positive, these are the guidelines for determining who else should also quarantine.

Remember, that, if you have fewer than 500 employees, you’re subjec to FFCRA and quarantine time is paid.

Having people work from home or being physically separated are still your best bets for keeping a healthy workplace, but keep this new definition in mind.

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