We’ve heard a lot about tracking our contacts since the COVID-19 pandemic was declared. But who do you count as a contact? Someone you walked past in the grocery store? Someone you interacted with outside, at a distance, while wearing a mask? Here’s what this term really means.
A close contact is someone with whom you have had prolonged (more than 15 minutes) contact at a close distance (within two metres) and without personal protective equipment, such as a non-medical mask. At this distance, respiratory drops from a person with COVID-19 who coughs, sneezes, sings or even simply talks, can land directly on your eyes, nose or mouth.
A close contact is also someone with whom you have shared eating utensils or drinking cups. Anyone living in the same home is considered a close contact.
A non-close contact is someone you have been around, and possibly had prolonged contact with, but you were not within two metres of each other. So you were not close enough to get any respiratory drops directly on you.
Brief interactions, such as walking by someone, or briefly being in the same room while maintaining physical distancing, are not considered a contact.
Close contact between two healthy individuals is not especially dangerous when it comes to COVID-19. However, if one individual has COVID-19, whether they have symptoms or not, it will likely spread to the other person due to fluid shared by coughs or sneezes. This is why wearing a non-medical mask and maintaining a two-metre distance is so important, especially when one person has symptoms. Those measures, along with frequently washing your hands and not touching your face with possibly contaminated hands, can protect you from getting COVID-19.
If you do end up testing positive for COVID-19, you will be asked to provide a list of your close contacts and non-close contacts over the previous two weeks. It’s a good idea to keep a record of where you’ve been at what times, and with whom you have been in close contact, or non-close contact.
When a student or staff member tests positive for COVID-19, public health will assess and notify anyone who is a close contact who must isolate at home for 14 days. They will also advise people who are not close contacts but need to self-monitor while they continue to attend school.
Parents will be notified if their child is considered a close contact of someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 through the case investigation and contact tracing process.
Parents will always be notified of a student or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19, if the investigation determines the case was in school or participating in other school-related activities while contagious.