Stronger Protections for Feds Against COVID-19 Needed in Light of New CDC Guidance

Categories: The Insider, Coronavirus

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has changed its definition of a “close contact” of an infected person, expanding the pools of those considered at risk of contracting the coronavirus. 

CDC previously defined a close contact as being within 6 feet of an infected person for at least 15 consecutive minutes in a day.  

A close contact is now defined as being within 6 feet of an infected person for a total of 15 nonconsecutive minutes in a day. That means people can get infected through short but repeated encounters totaling 15 minutes. 

The CDC made the change following an investigation into a COVID-19 outbreak in a Vermont prison where a corrections officer contracted the virus after having multiple brief encounters with six infected inmates. The officer had 22 short encounters that added up to about 17 minutes of total exposure within one day. 

In light of the change in the definition, AFGE is urging locals and councils to advocate and/or negotiate for better protections for workers. We’re also calling on federal agencies to protect their employees by postponing any plans to immediately return workers to the worksites, to re-assess respiratory protection needs and provide respirators or facial coverings accordingly. The new definition makes clear that agencies need to provide better protections for health care providers, correctional officers, SSA service reps, and others who may have repeated exposures throughout the workday. 

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