White House wants ‘draconian’ Ebola quarantine orders lifted as nurse threatens lawsuit
The White House is urging the NY and NJ governors to repeal the mandatory Ebola quarantine order for all medical staff returning from W. Africa, after the quarantined nurse threatened to sue authorities for treating her “like a criminal.”
Quoting an unnamed administration official, the New York Times reported that “top administration officials have been speaking with Mr. Cuomo daily and have also been in touch with Mr. Christie, trying to get them to rescind the order."
New York, New Jersey and Illinois are the three US States that have introduced mandatory 3-week quarantines on everyone who could have had contact with the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea where the epidemic has killed nearly 5,000 people.
The new measures to prevent an outbreak have been called a “little bit draconian,” by a senior US health official Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who warned of potential consequences of such an approach.
“I don't want to be directly criticizing the decision that was made but we have to be careful that there aren’t unintended consequences,” Fauci told NBC's Meet the Press.
The local authorities’ actions after the New York Ebola case were “uncoordinated, very hurried, an immediate reaction to the New York City case that doesn't comport with science,” said a senior administration official who spoke with the NY Times on the condition of anonymity.
The governors of New York, New Jersey and “other states” have been informed of the White House’s “concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa," the Obama administration official said in a statement cited by Reuters.
“We have also let these states know that we are working on new guidelines for returning healthcare workers that will protect the American people against imported cases, while, at the same time, enabling us to continue to tackle this epidemic in West Africa,” the official added.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie defended the quarantine Sunday.
“You can enforce it legally. There's no doubt about that,” Cuomo said on Correction Officers Benevolent Association President Norman Seabrook's 103.9-FM radio show. “It is enforceable. This is an order that's put out by the state, a public health order that's issued by the state health commissioner. And it is enforceable as a matter of law.”
Christie meanwhile told Fox News Sunday that, “the government's job is to protect the safety and health of our citizens.”
“I think this is a policy that will become a national policy sooner rather than later,” he said. “The fact of the matter is that the CDC protocol, is as Dr. Fauci admitted himself, had been a moving target.”
The debate of whether or not to hold people under quarantine intensified after a nurse Kaci Hickox, who has been held in isolation in New Jersey upon her return from Sierra Lione threatened a lawsuit.
Her lawyer said her treatment raises “serious constitutional and civil liberties issues,” as she remains asymptomatic and has not tested positive for Ebola. “We're not going to dispute that the government has, under certain circumstances, the right to issue a quarantine,” he said. “The policy is overly broad when applied to her.”
In an article describing her treatment in Saturday's Dallas Morning News, Hickox wrote:
“I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear, and most frightening, quarantine.”
Hickox described her treatment as “inhumane” as she remains quarantined at University Hospital in Newark in an interview with CNN on Sunday.
“I’m sorry if in any way [Hickox] was inconvenienced but inconvenience that could occur from having folks that are symptomatic and ill out amongst the public is a much, much greater concern of mine,” Christie told the Times.