Public-health officials in the U.S. are striving to keep tabs on thousands of Americans who have quarantined themselves at home after returning from mainland China to curtail the new coronavirus, adding to an epidemic response that is straining already-stretched local departments.
Local health officials check in daily by email, phone or text. They arrange tests for people who come down with symptoms, and in some cases, groceries and isolated housing. There is no centralized tally in the United States of people being monitored or asked to remain in isolation, and they are scattered across the nation’s nearly 3,000 local health jurisdictions.
People arriving from mainland China are added each day, while those who have completed 14-day “self-quarantine” periods are released from oversight. In California alone, the department of public health has been monitoring more than 6,700 returning travelers from China, while health officials in Washington State have tracked about 800, and officials in Illinois more than 200.
The nationwide mobilization is taking a financial toll, health officials say. The cost to local health departments is unknown, but some experts say it has already reached into the tens of millions.
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