CDC warns short, repeated interactions may raise COVID-19 risk
ATLANTA – With the US seeing a record number of new COVID-19 infections this week, and just over 75,000 new cases reported in a single day Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is warning brief, but repeated interactions with an infected person may raise your risk of exposure to the virus and require you to quarantine.
Microbiologist Dr. Amber Schmidtke said new data shows we may be more exposed than we realized in our daily interactions with those around us.
“It limits out sort of deniability that we weren’t a close contact because we only saw somebody for a few minutes. What this is showing us that, no, you don’t necessarily have to have 15 minutes with somebody to be defined as a close contact. It’s 15 minutes over a span of a 24-hour period.”
Up to half of the people infected with COVID-19 may not have symptoms, so they may not realize they can infect others.
Schmidtke said the more time you spend with an infected person, and the closer you are to them physically, the higher your risk of infection.
“So, it’s not just a one-time shot,” she said. “You have to have a certain amount of virus in your body to trigger an infection, and the more you’re exposed to that individual who may be asymptomatic, but not realizing they’re sick, the more than virus has a chance to accumulate and cross that threshold to causing actual disease.”
Schmidtke is urging people to layer their levels of protection, combining precautions like wearing a mask, social distancing, handwashing, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.
“Anything you can do to move your gatherings outside, where there is better ventilation and airflow, is going to help you immensely,” she said. “That doesn’t mean you can still sit right next to somebody. You still need to try to observe that 6-foot distance, even if you’re outside, between you and people you don’t live with. You know, we can love someone very much and accidentally give them a deadly disease.”