Fog of Ebola war: White House stance unclear as military leaders urge US troop quarantine
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The White House would not say Monday whether President Obama thinks U.S. troops returning from the Ebola hot zone in West Africa should be quarantined, as the U.S. Army unilaterally imposed that policy on its own troops and the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended the rest of the military follow suit.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel currently is considering the Joint Chiefs’ recommendation to impose a mandatory 21-day quarantine for all returning troops. At Monday’s daily briefing, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest acknowledged that Hagel might coordinate with the White House on that decision.
But when pressed by Fox News on what the president’s position is, Earnest would not say.
“We will let the Department of Defense make an announcement,” Earnest said. Asked how the U.S. could send troops to West Africa without a clear plan on procedures for leaving the Ebola battlefield, Earnest said: “We’re going to let science drive that process.”
The comments reflected the latest area of confusion in the ever-evolving U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Over the weekend, the White House put pressure on New Jersey and New York over policies quarantining returning health care workers. But it remains unclear where the White House — and Hagel himself — stands on applying that standard to returning U.S. servicemembers.
So far, the Army is the only branch to take that step.
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