Guidance on the Contact of a Close or Casual Contact of a Confirmed or Suspected Case of COVID-19

The following is reprinted from the NJ Department of Health (click here to download a PDF copy)

Background
More cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) are being identified in New Jersey. We are requesting
that those individuals who have mild symptoms to self-isolate and monitor their symptoms at home.
There has also been confusion about who is likely to come down with COVID-19, especially about
whether “contacts of contacts “of suspected or confirmed cases of COVID-19 are at risk.

NJDOH Guidance
Person A is diagnosed with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19. If Person B had close contact with Person A, then Person B would be considered “Medium Risk” and should remain home, practice social distancing, and monitor for symptoms. If Person B had casual contact with Person A, then Person B would be considered “Low Risk” and no special precautions other than what is generally suggested (e.g., social distancing, wash hands often) would be recommended.

So long as Person B remains well, any individual (such as Person C) who is a contact of Person B (i.e., children, spouse, co-worker, etc.) is a contact of a contact. Person C is not at risk for infection and would not be subject to self-isolation unless Person B had or developed symptoms or tested positive for COVID-19. Compliance with Executive Order 107 is required for all individuals.

Close contacts are individuals who were within 6 feet of a confirmed COVID-19 case for a prolonged period of time (approximately 10 minutes or more) or had direct contact with the infectious secretions of a COVID-19 case (e.g., were coughed on). Casual contacts are defined as being in the same indoor environment (e.g., classroom, office, gathering) with a symptomatic confirmed COVID-19 case.

Examples of “Contact” Scenarios:

Household Members:

  • If an asymptomatic (no symptoms) person is contacted by a local health department to be
    notified that they are a close contact of a confirmed COVID-19 case, they should remain home,
    practice social distancing, and monitor for symptoms.
  • Any child, spouse or other household members of this asymptomatic contact are a “contact of a
    contact” and therefore are not required to take any special precautions. They can go to school,
    work, and engage in other activities.

Co-workers:

  • If an asymptomatic employee calls their supervisor and notified them that they are required to
    stay home because they were a close contact of a confirmed case, the contacts they had at work
    are considered “contacts of contact,” are not required to take any special precautions. They
    should be permitted to continue to work.

How long should close/household contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case remain home while
monitoring themselves?

  • Symptomatic contacts: Must self-isolate at home until they are fever free for a full 3 days (or 72
    hours with no fever without the use of fever reducing medicine) AND other symptoms, such as
    cough and shortness of breath have improved AND at least 7 days have passed since symptoms
    first appeared. After self-isolation ends, the person may return normal activities including work
    and school.
  • Asymptomatic contacts: If the confirmed case remains a close contact after symptoms develop,
    the asymptomatic contact would self-isolate for 14 days AFTER the COVID-19 case is no longer
    required to self-isolate. If the asymptomatic contact no longer has close contact with the
    confirmed case, they would self-isolate for 14 days AFTER they last came into contact with the
    confirmed case.

How long should a casual contact of a confirmed COVID-19 remain home and monitor themselves for
symptoms?

  • Casual contacts of a confirmed COVID-19 case are “Low Risk” and do not have to take special
    precautions. They should observe for symptoms for 14 days, and self-isolate themselves if these
    develop. Symptoms of COVID-19 include fever, sore throat, cough, and shortness of breath.
  • If symptoms appear, see instructions listed above for symptomatic contacts.

Do “contact of contacts” need to take any special precautions?

  • No. A person who is a contact of a contact does not have any restrictions and can continue with normal activities such as going to work or school. However, if this person later develops symptoms, see instructions listed above for symptomatic contacts.