Tags: Ebola Outbreak | cuomo | caves | ebola | guidelines | christie | white

Cuomo Caves After Obama Pressures NY, NJ to Reverse Ebola Quarantines

By    |   Sunday, 26 October 2014 09:16 PM


Under pressure from the White House, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has dropped the stricter guidelines for mandatory Ebola quarantines he had announced on Friday, The New York Times reports.

Cuomo had joined New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie at a news conference on Friday to announce the mandatory guidelines for healthcare workers returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, where the outbreak is severe. The announcement was made after a doctor who had returned from West Africa tested positive for the virus in New York.

The mandatory 21-day quarantines were immediately criticized by health officials and the Obama administration, which has been pressing the governors to reverse them. In the meantime, Florida and Illinois also instituted mandatory quarantines.

The Times quotes a senior administration official as saying the orders were "uncoordinated, very hurried, an immediate reaction to the New York City case that doesn't comport with science."

Not long after the New York and New Jersey orders were announced, nurse Kaci Hickox arrived in New Jersey from West Africa and was placed in mandatory quarantine. She criticized Christie from a tent set up outside a hospital where she is being kept.

She told CNN by telephone on Sunday her treatment is "inhumane." She has no symptoms and has tested negative for Ebola. A person not exhibiting symptoms cannot transmit the virus.

"We have to be very careful about letting politicians make health decisions," Hickox told CNN.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio also was critical of Hickox's treatment.

"The problem here is, this hero, coming back from the front having done the right things, was treated with disrespect," de Blasio said. "We have to think how we treat the people who are doing this noble work."

New York's revised guidelines would allow all healthcare workers returning from West Africa who have no symptoms to return to their own homes during their confinement, the Times reported. They would be monitored for the 21-day incubation period of the virus.

They would be taken to their homes by private vehicle through arrangement with the New York State Department of Health or the local health department. They would receive at least two unannounced visits from local officials to check their conditions and to ensure compliance with the state order.

If the individual's company did not continue paying him or her during the confinement, the state would pay them, Cuomo said.

Christie said Sunday he has not been in contact with the White House and has no plans to reverse the order. He predicts, instead, that the state order will become nationwide practice.

Medical professionals note that Ebola is extremely difficult to catch. It is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person and is not transmitted by people who are not showing symptoms.

Confinement of the nurse at a Newark, New Jersey hospital raises constitutional and civil liberties issues, given that she remains asymptomatic and has not tested positive for Ebola, said her attorney Norman Siegel, a prominent civil liberties lawyer.

"The policy is overly broad when applied to her," he said.

The new rules were imposed a day after a New York doctor, Craig Spencer, was diagnosed with Ebola on Thursday after he returned from treating patients in Guinea.

Traveling in West Africa, Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was asked about the risk that mandatory quarantines might have in attracting health workers to West Africa.

She said she understood some people might be afraid of a case like Spencer's. Power was in Guinea's capital Conakry on Sunday and planned to visit Liberia and Sierra Leone for a first-hand view of the global response to Ebola. 

"We've got to find a way to address that fear, but we can't do so in a manner that undermines our ability to deal with the problem at its source," she told Reuters. "I think that balance can be struck."

The doctor with Ebola in New York, now in isolation, moved freely around the city before he had symptoms that would make him contagious.

He appeared slightly improved but remained in serious but stable condition on Sunday, health officials said.

Hickox slammed the quarantine in an interview on CNN, describing hours of questioning after arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport and her transfer to a hospital isolation tent.

But on "Fox News Sunday," Christie defended the policy. "If anything else, the government's job is to protect the safety and health of our citizens," he said.

Spencer and Hickox worked with Doctors Without Borders, a charity that is a leading part of international efforts to fight the epidemic.

Only four people have been diagnosed with Ebola in the United States. The first diagnosis on U.S. soil, a Liberian visitor to Texas in September who has died, was riddled with missteps. Two nurses who treated the Liberian man contracted the disease but have recovered.


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The White House has told states that have imposed mandatory quarantines for some travelers from Ebola-hit West Africa that the policy could impede the fight against the disease, while the first health worker isolated under the rules plans to sue. Kaci Hickox, a nurse placed...
cuomo, caves, ebola, guidelines, christie, white, house
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2014-16-26
Sunday, 26 October 2014 09:16 PM
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