Thoughts on the CDC’s COVID “Close Contact” Rule Change

Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued new guidance “that greatly expands the pool of people considered at risk of contracting the novel coronavirus by changing the definition of who is a ‘close contact’ of an infected individual.”

A Washington Post article summarized this important change as follows:

“The CDC had previously defined a ‘close contact’ as someone who spent at least 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of a confirmed coronavirus case. The updated guidance, which health departments rely on to conduct contact tracing, now defines a close contact as someone who was within six feet of an infected individual for a total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period.”

This change is likely to have a deep effect on schools and any place where people congregate. The updated guidance particularly puts pressure on employers, who are already beleaguered with coronavirus rules and regulations.

Earlier this week Jeff Adelson was interviewed for the Business Insurance magazine article, California’s COVID-19 Tracking Requirement Challenges Employers, that examines California’s new S.B. 1159 law requiring employers to report any COVID-19 cases (work-related or not) to their workers’ compensation insurers.

S.B 1159 includes fines of up to $10,000 (per incident) for failing to comply with the new tracking law. The reporting requirements, which we fully outlined in a previous post include:

  • The date the employee tested positive.
  • The specific address(es) of the employee’s employment during the 14-days prior to the positive test.
  • The number of employees present in the 45 days before the last day the employee was physically in the workplace.

Jeff’s quote in the Business Insurance article: “My greatest concern is that the average employer is not aware of (the tracking requirement) and is not going to be aware of it.” He sees the potential for a lag in employers knowing what to do and when, and advises that insurance companies and brokers help get the word out about the California law and advise the employers of the new requirements.

The CDC’s rule change adds to the need for increased education. Failure for employers to comply could be costly in terms of both fines and, more importantly, their employees’ health.

Top photo credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, accessed 2007-11-21, Public Domain

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