Brief, frequent exposures may have led to COVID-19 in Correctional Officer

Even short, frequent exposures to people who have COVID-19 could lead to transmission, new CDC data in MMWR suggest.

Researchers detail the case of a Vermont corrections officer who had 22 brief encounters with six asymptomatic inmates who were awaiting COVID-19 test results in a quarantine unit and turned out to be positive.

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A review of video footage found that each encounter was 1 minute or less, for a total of 17 nonconsecutive minutes. During some of the encounters, the inmates weren’t wearing masks, but the officer always wore a mask and other protective gear.

The officer tested positive 8 days later. He did not meet the state’s definition for close contact, within 6 feet of an infectious person for at least 15 consecutive minutes.

The authors conclude: “In correctional settings, frequent encounters of ≤6 feet between [incarcerated or detained persons] and facility staff members are necessary; public health officials should consider transmission-risk implications of cumulative exposure time within such settings.”

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