COVID-19 close contacts defined by 10 minutes of nonconsecutive interactions

(Archive photo by Alex Todd | Collegian Media Group)

Positive COVID-19 rates are on the rise in Riley County and around the nation. Hospitals feel the strain and trend towards limited room availability.

The United States is one of the hardest-hit countries with daily case increases in the hundreds of thousands. As of Monday, the nation surpassed 12 million positive cases.

The recent rise in positive COVID-19 cases resulted in an updated definition of close contact.

This definition of close contact covers multiple brief exposures to a COVID-19 patient within a 24-hour period. The change accounts for individual exposures adding to 10 minutes or longer rather than the previously accepted consecutive 10 minutes.

Jennifer Miller, health promotion director at Lafene Health Center, used the example of a roommate relationship to illustrate what this new definition means. Time spent with positive-testing roommates once in the morning and once again in the evening qualifies as a close contact if the combined time of interaction reaches 10 minutes.

In a situation like this, Miller said those exposed should be tested for COVID-19 as soon as possible.

Close contacts include hugging, kissing, shaking hands, being sneezed or coughed on and sharing a drinking glass, food, towel or any other personal item.

Lafene health care providers encourage students to get tested before Thanksgiving and winter break since it’s difficult to know who could be an asymptomatic carrier.

Miller said the sudden increase in positive COVID-19 cases could be attributed to lost interest in mask-wearing and social distancing.

Vivienne Uccello, Manhattan public information officer, said increased instances of small gatherings like dinners and barbeques are to blame for a portion of the larger positive case volume.

“People who test positive is usually because of small gatherings with friends and family,” Uccello said. “Loss of taste and smell is the most common symptom in Riley County.”

It’s time to buckle down and make sure people continue to take safety precautions, Uccello said.

Miller said she’s hopeful the updated close contact definition will help limit the spread of COVID-19, but Uccello said it’s difficult to make sure the public is up-to-date on the constantly evolving information about the virus.

Many Riley County residents and K-State students are doing their best to stay informed, Miller said.

“The university administration is monitoring the COVID-19 pandemic closely,” Michelle Geering, K-State public information officer, said. “If additional policy changes are required, any changes will be announced via K-State Today and updated on the university’s COVID-19 website.”