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All Workforce: Health Workers Race to Track Thousands of Americans amid Corona Virus

After a long seaside trip aboard the Westerdam cruise ship, which was denied entry to ports across Asia due to concerns about the Coronavirus, Holly Rowen finally returned to Florida on Wednesday evening. Moments later, she found out that she had joined a group of thousands of people who are closely tracked by local health officials across the United States.

While Ms. Rawin’s plane landed outside, one of the messages was already waiting on her phone from a nurse in her local public health department in her Florida county. If she has a fever or cough within the next 14 days, she should report it immediately, the nurse explained when Mrs. Rowen called back to reply.

“I was very moved,” said Ms. Rawin, a retired public health nurse from the same health department in Lee County. “We are really really into unknown waters.”

Experts said preventing the spread of infectious diseases is the core of public health work, but the scale of efforts by government and local health departments across the country to contain the virus known as COVID-19 is rarely seen. Since early February, thousands of people returning to the United States from mainland China, the epicenter of the disease, have been asked to isolate themselves in their homes for 14 days.

Local health officials check in daily with email, phone, or text. They arrange tests for people with symptoms and, in some cases, grocery stores and isolated housing. There is no central account in the U.S. for people who are monitored or required to remain in isolation, and they are scattered throughout the nearly 3,000 state health states.

People arriving from mainland China are added daily, while people who complete “quarantine” periods are released for 14 days of censorship. In California alone, the Department of Public Health monitors more than 6,700 returning travelers from China, while Washington state health officials track about 800, and Illinois officials more than 200.

Health officials say the nationwide mobilization is causing financial losses. The cost of local health departments is unknown, but some experts say it has reached tens of millions. Even as the first of Thirty-four confirmed patients with the confirmed Coronavirus virus in the United States in recent days, and health officials say they are preparing for what some may fear spreading. Worldwide, the virus, known to be highly infectious, has infected 75,000 people and killed more than 2,000 people.

“All manpower on this matter is being withdrawn,” said Dr. Marcus Plesia, chief medical officer of the Association of Governmental and Regional Health Officials, a non-profit organization representing public health agencies across the country. “If it really explodes, at some point, it can overwhelm government and local health departments.”

So far, officials say, the containment efforts in this country have been largely organized. The only known virus transmission in the United States has involved people in the same household. “No matter how effective health workers can monitor their fees, there will always be some leakage,” said Dr. John Weizman, the Secretary of Health in Washington State.

“There is nothing so large, that you can make it impenetrable,” said Dr. Weizmann, who started phone calls twice a week with senior health officials in every state and territory to exchange advice and strive. Advice on how to manage changing challenges to respond to the Coronavirus. While full compliance with removal orders may not be possible, Dr. Weissman said: “We have to try 80 to 85 percent, and we hope it will work.”

Federal authorities are responsible for developing risk management guidelines, such as determining the amount of risk posed by the returning traveler and who should be tested for the Coronavirus. But the daily work that puts these policies into practice and tracks thousands of people lies with the vast and decentralized network of local health departments across the country. Passenger data, which was extracted from federal customs officials, is transmitted to government health agencies, which compile lists of people returning from China to local health departments.

In the Chicago area, public health officials use an electronic monitoring system that was originally developed to track measles to monitor more than 200 passengers. Every day, they receive a link asking about its temperature and symptoms.

The costs associated with containing the virus have reached more than $ 150,000 a week for the Chicago Department of Public Health alone, according to its commissioner, Dr. Alison Arwadi. Among the costs: $ 17,000 for a quarantine facility in an unknown location for people who cannot isolate themselves at home. She said that less than five people have used it so far.

She said: “If you are putting them in quarantine under a legal order, you should consider food, their medication, their communication needs, and their mental health.”

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