White House Pushes Back on State Ebola Quarantines

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from The Wall Street Journal,

The White House pushed back against the governors of New York, New Jersey, Illinois and other states that instituted procedures to forcibly quarantine medical workers returning from West Africa, deepening an emotional debate brought on by recent Ebola cases in the U.S.

A senior administration official said Sunday that new federal guidelines under development would protect Americans from imported cases of the disease but not interfere with the flow of U.S. health workers to and from West Africa to fight the epidemic there.

“We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey and other states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences… [that quarantine] policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source,” the official said.

It wasn’t clear what action the Obama administration could take to end the quarantines.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Sunday night gave the first new details about how his state’s quarantine would work, noting that individuals would be allowed to stay in their homes for 21 days. State and local health-care workers would check on quarantined people twice a day to monitor for Ebola symptoms. Those with symptoms would be taken to a hospital. People whose jobs won’t compensate them during their quarantine would be paid by the state.

Travelers who have had no direct contact with Ebola patients wouldn’t be subject to confinement at home, but they would be consulted twice-daily by health officials over the three-week period.

New York officials said the new protocols still went further than those recommended by the federal government.

“My personal practice is to err on the side of caution,” said Mr. Cuomo. Asked if he got White House pressure to shape the policy, Mr. Cuomo said: “I have had none.”

The New York quarantine policy appears designed to strike a different tone from New Jersey, where Kaci Hickox, a 33-year-old Doctors Without Borders nurse, has been held in a tent in a Newark hospital for three days under conditions that she said Sunday were “really inhumane.”

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