The U.S. Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) continues to update COVID-19 guidance as more information is known about how the coronavirus spreads.   On October 21, 2020, the CDC made a significant update to the definition of “close contact”.  Individuals that have spent 15 cumulative minutes within six feet of an infected individual during a 24-hour period will now be considered a “close contact.”  The prior definition encompassed individuals that had spent 15 consecutive minutes within six feet of an individual with COVID-19.  The full definition in the updated guidance is:

Someone who was within 6 feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period starting from 2 days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.

While noting that “data are limited”, the CDC notes other factors when defining close contact include:

  • Proximity
  • Duration of exposure
  • Whether the infected individual has symptoms
  • If the infected person was likely to generate respiratory aerosols
  • Other environmental factors (such as ventilation, outdoor/indoors/crowding)

The update was based on a new study focused on a correctional institution in Vermont.  The CDC also released guidance for passengers and workers on public transportation  entitled Interim Guidance: Wearing of Face Masks While on Public Conveyances and at Stations, Ports, and Similar Transportation Hubs.  The CDC “strongly recommends” that passengers and personnel wear masks to stop the spread of COVID-19 both while on public transportation and at stations or loading places.  The guidance includes not only airplanes but also more intimate forms of transportation like ride-shares.   The CDC states that “[m]asks are most likely to reduce the spread of COVID-19 when they are widely used by people in public settings.”  Additionally, operators should not permit individuals without masks to board and once on board individuals should wear a mask for the entire period of travel.

On October 20, The HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health released Guidance for PREP Act Coverage for Qualified Pharmacy Technicians and State-Authorized Pharmacy Interns for Childhood Vaccines, COVID-19 Vaccines, and COVID-19 Testing.   The guidance states that “[p]harmacies, in partnership with other healthcare providers, are well positioned to increase access to vaccinations—particularly in certain areas that have too few pediatricians and other primary care providers, or that are otherwise medically underserved.”  The guidance authorizes qualified pharmacy technicians and State-authorized pharmacy interns acting under the supervision of a qualified pharmacist to administer FDA-authorized or FDA-licensed COVID-19 vaccines and COVID-19 tests, including serology tests, that have been approved, cleared, or authorized by the FDA.   In turn, pharmacy technicians and State-authorized pharmacy interns will be considered “covered persons” under the PREP Act.

Norton Rose Fulbright attorneys will continue to provide relevant updates for healthcare providers on our Health Law Pulse.