A Doctor Underwent a Voluntary Quarantine Upon Arrival From China

Seattle- Upon his return from China last week, Dr. Ian Lipkin was quarantined in his basement. His wife leaves his food on the stairs. He has no more left to watch on Netflix. In unusual hours he walks through Central Park in New York, staying a few meters away from the others.

While the focus is on US cruises and military bases in quarantine, those in their homes have dodged almost all attention.

Experts say that these people play a crucial role in slowing the spread of the new COVID-19 disease.


Most cases and almost all deaths have been recorded in China. Worldwide, authorities order two weeks of home quarantine and symptom monitoring for travelers returning from there.

It is the only tool they have.

“We still don’t have a vaccine and we don’t have approved medications for the prevention or treatment of the disease. So, all we have is isolation,” said Lipkin, who heads the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University.

The Chinese authorities invited Lipkin, a virus expert, to help assess the risk posed by COVID-19. He did a similar job in China during the SARS outbreak in 2003.

“This is my second time in the dungeon,” said Lipkin, who spent time in quarantine at that time. He will finish his confinement on Tuesday, celebrating with a dry martini in public.

Domestic quarantine numbers change constantly and are difficult to specify. The state of New York, for example, has received the names of more than 350 people who recently returned from China. Local health departments are monitoring and recommending quarantine for those without known exposure to the virus.

In the United States, state and federal guidelines classify people into high, medium and low risk groups and have advice for each group, but local health departments have discretion on how to carry out quarantines.