CDC clarifies COVID-19 rule

Caughing APD CDC COVID-19 covid 19 rule distancing

Austin Public Health (APH) continues to urge the Austin-Travis County community to complete full quarantine periods and cooperate with case investigators to successfully identify close contacts and slow the spread of COVID-19.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced a clarification in the definition of a “close contact” to include someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of at least 15 minutes across 24 hours. Under the updated definition, a person could be exposed three separate times for five minutes each for a cumulative of 15 minutes, rather than only including single exposures of 15 minutes or more.

The CDC announcement does not change APH case investigator efforts. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, APH has included close contacts who were exposed for a cumulative total of at least 15 minutes in contact tracing.

“Our staff at Austin Public Health is making every effort to get information from those who tested positive for COVID-19 to identify close contact and quickly get them into quarantine,” said APH Chief Epidemiologist Janet Pichette. “But we can’t do this alone. We need community cooperation and understanding to reduce disease transmission.”

If you are someone who APH notifies as being in close contact of a COVID-19 case, you must quarantine for 14 days after your last contact with that person. During the 14-day quarantine, you should watch for symptoms such as a fever, cough, or headache, among others. If you develop symptoms, you should seek testing.

However, you cannot test your way out of quarantine. If you are tested during your 14-day quarantine period and the test returns negative, you must still complete the remainder of the 14 days incase the virus is still in its incubation period.

“We’re at a point in our response where we are beginning to see another increase in cases,” Pichette added. “As cases go up, it is going to be even more important for people to follow public health prevention measures and abide by quarantine and isolation practices.”

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