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COVID-19: CDC has a new definition of ‘close contact,’ Iowa has another new record for hospitalized patients


State Medical Director and Epidemiologist Dr. Caitlin Pedati Zooms into the Aug. 20 press conference. — video still

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised its definition of what constitutes “close contact” with someone who has COVID-19. Previously, the CDC had defined close contact as being within six feet of a person who has tested positive for 15 consecutive minutes. But under the revised definition issued on Wednesday, being within six feet of an infected person for a total of 15 minutes in a 24-hour period is considered close contact.

Anyone who has been in close contact with someone who has been confirmed as having COVID-19 is supposed to quarantine and be tested for the virus, according to CDC guidelines.

The new guidelines are based on a report by the CDC and Vermont health officials that found multiple short exposure during the course of a day was sufficient to transmit COVID-19.

Caitlin Rivers of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health told NPR the revised definition will “mostly impact workplaces, schools and other places where people spend all day together off and on.”

That may not be true in Iowa.

In September, Gov. Kim Reynolds announced the Iowa Department of Public Health was replacing the CDC’s guidance regarding when contact with an infected person should lead to quarantine with its own looser standards.

According to IDPH’s guidance “for business, school and child care settings,” “quarantine is no longer recommended if a potential exposure occurs while both the infectious individual and the close contacts are wearing face coverings consistently and correctly.” The distance between the two people and the amount of time spent together does not matter under this definition.

As long as both parties were correctly wearing masks, the person who was potentially exposed to the virus should just self-monitor for symptoms of COVID-19, according to IDPH.

IDPH Medical Director Dr. Caitlin Pedati acknowledged the new guidance doesn’t meet CDC standards (which were even looser at the time), but said “we don’t frequently see additional infections in situations where people have been wearing face coverings.”

Iowa, of course, doesn’t require face coverings, and the governor maintains that any ordinance enacted by a local government requiring them is invalid.

IDPH has not released any statement regarding the new stricter CDC definition of close contact.

For the third day this week, Iowa set a new record for the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients. On Friday morning, IDPH was reporting 536 such patients, breaking the record of 534 set Wednesday. One hundred and thirty-four of the hospitalized patients were being treated in intensive care units.

Iowa’s surge in new cases driven by community spread continued on Friday, with IDPH reporting 1,581 new cases during the 24-hour period ending at 10 a.m. Those new cases included 46 residents of Johnson County and 89 residents of Linn County, and brought the total number of Iowans who have tested positive for the virus to 112,555.

Between 10 a.m. on Thursday and 10 a.m. on Friday, IDPH also reported another 23 deaths from COVID-19. Among the deceased was a resident of Linn County. The deaths brought the state’s death toll from the virus to 1,617, a total that includes 30 residents of Johnson County and 129 residents of Linn County.


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