Coronavirus: 700 New York residents who traveled to China under voluntary quarantine

Coronavirus: 700 New York residents who traveled to China under voluntary quarantine
Coronavirus: 700 New York residents who traveled to China under voluntary quarantine  

Voluntary quarantine protocols have been applied to about 700 people who returned to New York after traveling to areas affected by the coronavirus outbreak in China since Feb. 3, authorities said.

The vast majority of the travelers were deemed at medium risk for the new coronavirus, called COVID-19, because of recent travel to mainland China, New York State Health Department officials told the USA TODAY Network New York late Tuesday.

The newly reported tally reflected travelers reviewed for potential voluntary quarantine outside New York City.

None of the 700 people had symptoms, and the number of them being monitored by local health officials during a 14-day self-isolation period was changing almost daily, in part, due to ongoing travel from mainland China, state health officials said.

The number of travelers being watched underscored the scope of the public-health response underway in New York and across the country as the virus spread across the globe.

A federal health official warned Tuesday that the deadly coronavirus could cause "severe" disruptions in the USA as global experts struggled to fend off the outbreak and avoid a pandemic.

The global death toll from coronavirus rose to 2,770 on Wednesday, with more than 81,000 confirmed cases, including 57 in the U.S. None of the confirmed cases have been in New York.

What to know about coronavirus voluntary quarantine

On a daily basis, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides state health officials with names and contact information of travelers from China screened by U.S. Customs and Border Protection, according to Jill Montag, a state Health Department spokeswoman.

So far, local health departments have contacted about 700 of the travelers since early February to determine if they meet the criteria for self-isolation, Montag said. She would not provide details about the locations of the people on quarantine.

Westchester County, located just north of New York City, announced last week that it is monitoring 26 travelers on voluntary quarantine, mostly in their homes. Neighboring Rockland County disclosed it had two people on similar quarantine, and another three people who had completed the 14 day self-isolation.

Health officials upstate in Monroe County, which includes Rochester, were monitoring six people earlier this month.

New York City health officials, who are expected to brief the media Wednesday afternoon on the situation there, didn't immediately respond to questions Wednesday about how many people were on voluntary quarantine in the five boroughs of Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island and the Bronx. It's also unclear what the numbers are for Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Long Island.

Returning travelers are asked to voluntarily self-isolate for 14 days after their last potential exposure to novel coronavirus, per CDC guidelines that are based on the virus' incubation period.

During the quarantines, local health departments monitor the individuals for signs and symptoms each day, Montag said.

Common signs of the infection include fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. If it worsens, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure or even death.

Montag said the "voluntary self-isolation will help limit the potential for spread of this virus."

Many of the 700 travelers were deemed medium risk based on CDC guidelines due to their travel from mainland China outside Hubei Province, which includes the epicenter of the outbreak in Wuhan, and not having any exposures that meet a high-risk definition, such as failing to take recommended precautions while living with or caring for a lab-confirmed case of COVID-19.

The voluntary self-isolation includes video monitoring via smartphones and food deliveries overseen by local health officials.

If any of the people on quarantine start showing signs of illness and require transport to a medical facility, the county public safety and emergency services agencies would oversee the transport.

Montag said the number of New Yorkers on voluntary quarantine is also changing because some people have also already completed the 14-day monitoring period.

What to know about cruise ship evacuation, quarantines

The voluntary quarantine protocols differed from the approach being taken to isolate the approximately 380 Americans who were evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and flown back to the U.S. on Feb. 17.

Most of the evacuees involved are now quarantined at military bases in Texas, Colorado and California. A further 13 - 11 of which have since tested positive for coronavirus - are being treated at the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.

To date, 40 Americans from the Diamond Princess have tested positive, comprising majority of the 57 cases in the United States.

On Sunday, Alabama state officials rejected a federal plan to house cruise ship passengers who tested positive for the coronavirus at the FEMA Center for Domestic Preparedness in Anniston.

USA TODAY contributed to this report

This article originally appeared on New York State Team: Coronavirus: 700 under voluntary quarantine in NY after China travel


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