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Trust Index: Putting the CDC’s ‘15-minute rule’ to the test

How long can you be exposed to someone with COVID-19 before being infected?

President Donald Trump is back on the campaign trail, nearly two weeks after testing positive for COVID-19. Since President Trump’s diagnosis, 37 White House staff and other individuals have also tested positive, with 11 cases now linked to a Sept. 26 Supreme Court nomination ceremony held for Amy Coney Barrett.

According to the White House, contact tracing was performed after Trump’s diagnosis Oct. 1. Citing the “15-minute rule” provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the White House says the effort focused on identifying people who spent more than 15 minutes within six feet of the president while he might have been infectious.

Yet some within the medical community wonder if the contact tracing conducted after President Trump’s diagnosis was thorough enough. To help shed more light on the issue, News4Jax is running the so-called “15-minute rule” through the Trust Index.

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Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC has issued guidelines on everything, ranging from when to wear a face mask to how schools should operate. The CDC says contact tracing “should be conducted for anyone within six feet of an infected person for at least 15 minutes.”

Which raises the question: how long do you need to be exposed to someone who’s positive for COVID-19 before you’re at risk of being infected? Dr. Sunil Joshi, president of the Duval County Medical Society Foundation, said it depends on whether the infected person has symptoms.

“If the person is having symptoms and you’re around them — even if you are wearing a mask — and you were within six feet and you found out they were positive, then I would really recommend you should get tested,” Dr. Joshi said. “But if they were asymptomatic and you both are wearing a mask, then that 15-minute guideline is a reasonable one to follow.”

We also shared our questions with Dr. Elizabeth Ransom, the chief physician executive for Baptist Health. Dr. Ransom said it’s a good guideline, but there’s more to it than that.

“It’s definitely something to keep in mind. It is a good guideline to use, but I wouldn’t use it and say oh well, someone is coughing and they maybe have symptoms, as long as you stop at 15 minutes, you’re going to be fine,” she said. “You have to use good judgment and common sense for sure.”

Both doctors agreed that contact tracing and getting tested after being exposed to someone who’s infected with COVID-19 should be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Because of that, we’re going to rate the “15-minute rule” as “Be Careful."

Be Careful

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