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The Front Lines of the Coronavirus Fight

US News & World Report interviewed Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, professor at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, about the role of local and state health departments in the pandemic fight. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

“The cat is out of the bag,” says Dr. Robert Kim-Farley, a professor of epidemiology and community health sciences at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health.

While the federal government was the main player in the early days of the U.S. coronavirus response – restricting foreign travelers and quarantining Americans returning from the virus’ epicenter in China on military bases – an inevitable shift has occurred, with local officials, health care workers, epidemiologists, first responders and other community leaders now forming the front lines of a widespread defense.

The country’s roughly 3,000 local health departments play a key role in the limited diagnostic testing that’s been available in the U.S., while coordinating with area hospitals and advising the public on sanitation and social distancing measures. They regularly confer with state authorities, and they work with city and county leaders to decide whether to keep local schools and businesses open.