COVID-19 tips: B.C. doctor explains new definition of 'close contact'
VANCOUVER -- New research suggests even brief encounters could increase the risk of contracting COVID-19, prompting health officials to redefine what is considered a close contact.
Dr. Rhonda Low, a Vancouver-based family physician, explained on CTV Morning Live Monday that even several short encounters with someone who has COVID-19 could be risky.
"Previously we thought that you were at an increased risk if you were within six feet or less of a potentially infectious person for 15 minutes or more over the course of a day," Low said.
"Now, based on a new study, and this is particularly for health-care providers, the (Centers for Disease Control) has suggested that this risk is actually cumulative."
That means someone who spends a total of 15 minutes or more within six feet of someone with COVID-19 would be considered a "close contact."
"You could still be at risk if you went in and out of an area, say three times, five minutes," Low explained.
"That could have implications for going in and out of small stores, small areas … it's the amount of time, totally, cumulatively that you're exposed over a 24-hour period."
The BC Centre for Disease Control says it aims to get in touch with all close contacts of confirmed COVID-19 cases. If an exposure event has happened and they can't reach all close contacts, health authorities will post details about that exposure online.
"Not every contact needs to be identified: only those who could have been exposed to the case’s respiratory droplets from coughing, sneezing or speaking," the BCCDC's website says.
As of Monday's COVID-19 update, more than 10,900 people were under active public health monitoring in B.C. as a result of identified exposures to known cases.
Dr. Rhonda Low's comments were part of a five-minute interview on CTV Morning Live. Watch the full interview in the video player above.