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Lane County reacts to impact of new COVID-19 close contact definition

Here's how CDC's redefinition of close contact will impact contact tracing here in Lane County.

Posted: Oct 22, 2020 5:47 PM
Updated: Oct 22, 2020 5:48 PM

EUGENE, Ore. -- A new virus comes with new challenges including learning more about the disease as time goes on. Now, health officials are redefining what it means to have close contact with someone with COVID-19. 

For months, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said close contact meant spending a solid 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone who tested positive for coronavirus. 

However, on Wednesday the CDC changed it to a total of 15 minutes or more, meaning briefer but repeated contacts that add up to 15 minutes now count. 

Jason Davis with Lane County Public Health said this means more people will be considered at risk. He said this will have a downstream impact on businesses, schools and the community at large. 

But he said Lane County Public Health and the Oregon Health Authority will follow the new recommendations. 

"You can argue with the guidance all you want and the rationale behind it. But ultimately the best strategy we have is to reduce the number of cases, and the number of people who are exposed and have to quarantine and isolate," Davis said. 

Senior Public Health Officer Dr. Patrick Luedtke said these new recommendations will help officials fine-tune but won't cause any major changes on the ground. However, it will create more of a burden for tracking. 

"They will need to consider, 'Can we do everything at once and keep it under 15 minutes?' And if they can't, sometimes with education you have to check in several times too right? So they'll need to be willing to retract that time and that will make it a little more challenging or of course they could alternate it and then no one will add up to fifteen," Luedke said. 

Luedtke said the vast majority of the transmission is through large droplets but there still is a small percentage of transmission through aerosol or tiny droplets. He said that is what this new change is capturing. 

He told KEZI 9 News that's why health officials think a 15 minute total counts because there is a risk of getting the virus since the droplets stay in the air a while. 

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

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