WASHINGTON D.C.: Top Obama administration officials publicly warned on Sunday (Monday in Manila) that mandatory quarantines in the US of doctors, nurses and other health care workers who have traveled to Africa to help Ebola patients risked worsening the epidemic.
Mandatory 21-day quarantines, now in place in New York, New Jersey and Illinois, are “a little bit draconian” and could discourage people from helping to fight the disease, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top Ebola expert at the National Institutes of Health, said in several television interviews on Sunday.
Fauci’s public remarks came as the administration privately pushed the states to reconsider.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo defended the quarantine policy during a Sunday night news conference, but outlined a version that appeared less onerous than the treatment that has been accorded so far to the one person in quarantine, in New Jersey. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had ordered the quarantine policy on Friday (Saturday in Manila) but had left details unclear.
“My personal practice is to err on the side of caution,” Cuomo said. Health care workers returning to New York who were exposed to Ebola patients in West Africa would be required to stay home for three weeks, he said. The state would work with hospitals to encourage doctors and nurses to travel to Africa to fight the disease and, if necessary, would pay the salaries of health care workers while they were in quarantine, he added.
The three states with quarantine orders are among five with airports used by travelers arriving from West Africa. The other two states, Georgia and Virginia, have not taken similar action. Florida has ordered enhanced monitoring of people in contact with Ebola patients, but not a quarantine.