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As the world improves in adapting to the COVID19 pandemic, researchers are able to dig deeper into how the virus can spread. By getting a better information about the factors that may cause an individual from being infected, we can enhance the prevention protocols and thus reducing the number of cases.
Another crucial way that government authorities strictly implements to prevent the virus’ spread is tracing the contact of a person who have tested positive with COVID19.
The fundamental in making a successful contact tracing is setting the detailed qualification of contacts where three main factors are being considered:
A COVID19 positive person can transmit the virus through speaking, sneezing or coughing, and breathing. Hence, the shorter the distance, the higher the risk of being exposed to infectious particles.
The longer contact, the better chance that the virus is transmitted.
Is the place indoors or outdoor? Does it have proper ventilation? Is there a large crowd present?
Considering these factors, two types of contacts are identified: casual and close contact. Casual is when the contact happened in less than 15 minutes. While a close contact is a 2-meter distance within 15 minutes and above.
However, on 21 October 2020, the CDC has updated its definition of close contact due to the study published in their Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) where a correctional facility employee tested positive despite following a safe distance of six feet and wearing strict PPEs during brief encounters – approximately 1 minute each – with six detained persons (IDPs) who received their positive test result the next day. After the investigation, they found out that the correctional officer had a cumulative total of 17 minutes of encounter throughout the day.
The evidence gathered from the study may not be as strong due to possible encounters that could have been missed during the investigation of video footage as well as other encounters in the cell doors where the IDPs were not wearing face masks. However, it has called the attention of the CDC that a 2-meter distance within 15 minutes or more should be enhanced to really make sure that transmission is even more prevented. Today, the CDC has defined close contact as a person who has encountered a COVID19 positive person at a:
- Distance of six feet or less
- Duration of 15 minutes or more (cumulative) within 24 hours starting from 2 days prior to the onset of illness (for symptomatic) or the arrival of test result
- Anywhere, even with PPEs.
What should you do if you are qualified as a close contact?
- Follow the directives of your local authorities. On the other hand, a standard protocol is:
- Quarantine yourself for 14 days after your last contact with the positive patient.
- This helps keep your loved ones and others safe from possible transmission in case you are carrying the virus.
- If you feel fine: Finish your 14-day self-quarantine
- If you exhibited symptoms during the 14-day quarantine: Call your local health department to get proper assistance on your PCR test appointment and isolation.
The qualifications of close contact vary from different countries and cities but staying up-to-date with your local health authority’s safety protocols and following social distancing; proper hand hygiene; and properly using a face mask; are the general rule that anyone is responsible to do.