NH1 News Debates


Oct 27, 2014 12:55 AM

Governors stress home quarantine for Ebola workers

The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) Despite President Barack Obama's appointment of an "Ebola czar" to oversee and coordinate the U.S. response to the deadly outbreak, some politicians and even the Pentagon are going against White House guidance by imposing the kinds of quarantines that scientists warn could make containing the epidemic more difficult.

Obama said any measures involving health care workers "should be crafted so as not to unnecessarily discourage those workers from serving." U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, now in West Africa, said any returning workers should be "treated like conquering heroes and not stigmatized for the tremendous work that they have done."

Instead, a nurse who volunteered in Africa with Doctors Without Borders was forced to spend her weekend in a tent in New Jersey, despite having no symptoms other than a temperature she blamed on "inhumane" treatment at Newark International Airport. And now in Italy, a two-star Army general and 11 of his staff are remaining in isolation for 21 days following their return from Africa.

Army Col. Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesman, said Monday that Army leaders made the decision to have any soldiers returning from Africa isolated and monitored for the three-week incubation period. It's not clear who in the Army made the decision, and so far Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has not ordered similar action by the other military services with troops in Africa.

Kaci Hickox, the nurse forced into quarantine Friday after arriving from Sierra Leone, was to be flown on a private carrier to Maine, New Jersey's Health Department said Monday. An agency statement said she'd been symptom-free for 24 hours; Hickox has said she never had symptoms and tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation.

Hickox, the first person affected by New Jersey's mandatory 21-day quarantine for medical workers returning from West Africa, was talking about suing to protect the rights of other health care workers, and the American Civil Liberties Union also warned against overly coercive measures.

But New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said at a political campaign event Monday that the protection of his citizens comes first.

"When she has time to reflect, she'll understand," Christie said.

Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called federal health guidelines inadequate when they announced their quarantine plans on Friday. Illinois and Maryland's governors made similar announcements.

Gov. Pat Quinn of Illinois which has no confirmed Ebola cases and nobody in quarantine said Monday that those affected should be able to remain home where they'll be more comfortable, but will be forced to stay there.

"In the interest of the public and public health, it will be mandatory," Quinn said Monday in Chicago. "We have to be on our toes."

Scientists called such measures are an ill-conceived overreaction.

"The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those health care workers, so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Several of the governors said their policies permit home confinement, with twice-daily monitoring, for medical workers who have had contact with Ebola patients but show no symptoms. Cuomo said quarantine tents would only be used if the workers don't have a home to go to in New York or New Jersey.

"We're staying one step ahead," Cuomo said Sunday night. "Some people say we're being too cautious. I'll take that criticism."

Who will compensate these workers for three weeks of lost pay is another question. Cuomo's protocols would have the state pay their salaries if they aren't paid by a volunteer organization for their time in quarantine. But it wasn't immediately clear if other states will make similar offers, and even then, compensating volunteer medical workers to stay off their jobs would be another burden on charities.

The Obama administration considers the policies in New York and New Jersey "not grounded in science" and conveyed its concerns to Christie and Cuomo, a senior administration official told The Associated Press Sunday. The official wasn't authorized to comment by name and insisted on anonymity.

Fauci insisted that any quarantine policy should be driven by science and that science says people with the virus are not contagious until symptoms appear. Even then, infection requires direct contact with bodily fluids.

The state-imposed quarantines were announced after Dr. Craig Spencer returned to his New York City apartment after treating Ebola victims in Guinea. Before he was hospitalized with a fever, he rode the subway, went bowling and ate at a restaurant. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio said Monday that Spencer's condition remains serious but stable.

The World Health Organization said more than 10,000 people have been infected with Ebola in the outbreak that came to light last March, and nearly half of them have died, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia.


Eltman reported from New York. Other Associated Press contributors include Brian White in Baltimore; Geoff Mulvihill in Haddonfield, New Jersey; Bruce Shipkowski in Trenton, New Jersey; Josh Lederman and Thomas Strong in Washington; Matt Sedensky in Florida; and Jonathan Lemire and Verena Dobnik in New York.


--  Dealing with the Disease of Addiction? Click here for help --

More from NH1.com

NH1 News Debates
NH1 News Replay

NH1 on Twitter

NH1 SkyView Cameras

NH1 on Facebook

Check out NH1 News Rail Polls on LockerDome on LockerDome