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USA TODAY

Wondering how the long list of states and cities with traveler quarantines to help stop the spread of COVID-19 are enforcing them?

Chicago health officials are turning to social media for help.

The city, which issued an emergency travel order on July 2 requiring visitors and residents who have traveled to destinations with problematic COVID case trends to quarantine for 14 days on arrival, is checking the posts of suspected violators.

If someone is on the health department’s radar through contact tracing or other measures, their social media accounts are checked to gather evidence ahead of issuing a citation, Dr. Allison Arwady, Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner, said at a news conference Tuesday.

“Where we already have a concern, it’s one of the easiest ways to identify people who are not just breaking the travel order but flaunting it publicly,” she said

She used the example of someone whose posts were from Florida, one of the states on the quarantine list, one day and Chicago a few days later.

“And they’re clearly out in Chicago, not just back, but at a restaurant or at The Bean or whatever it may be, and they’re posting about it,” she said. “That’s an example of where we could use that as proof to issue citations.”

Fines range from $100 to $500 a day. The city has not released details on how many fines, if any, have been issued. Arwady said only that the health department is sending warning letters to “people of concern.”

Arwady dismissed any notion that Chicago  is playing “Big Brother” and closely monitoring visitor and resident social media posts.

“We do not have somebody dedicated to sitting and watching social media feeds,” she said. “We’re absolutely not doing that.”

She said social media posts are an easy way to gather proof of potential violations of a quarantine order “without me having to send out an inspector or do any sort of more aggressive follow up.”

Chicago’s emergency travel order now covers 22 states and, beginning Friday, Puerto Rico.

Arwady said the city’s main approach to enforcement of the quarantine remains public education, with notices and announcements at its two major airports, highway signage and notices to airlines, hotels and vacation rental companies.

“And in that respect, I think it’s actually been extremely effective,” she said. “We have gotten calls about this travel order, questions, at a level that has suggested that people are paying serious attention.”

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