UPDATE: Christie Backs Down on Ebola Quarantine
[Update 9:55 a.m.] Gov. Christie had second thoughts after all, the New York Times reports:
A nurse who recently returned from West Africa and was quarantined for the past three days in a tent behind a New Jersey hospital despite having no symptoms associated with Ebola will be allowed to return home to serve out the rest of her mandatory quarantine.
Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, in a brief interview, said that he expected her to be transferred Monday morning after doctors and federal officials signed off on the plan.
“She didn’t want to be there. She made that clear from the beginning,” Mr. Christie said.
“It’s always been about her condition. And if her condition permits release, then we will work with the state officials in Maine to make sure she could go home,” he said. “Our preference always is to quarantine people in their homes.”
[Original 6 a.m.]
Chris Christie is coming under fire for quarantining a nurse who was exposed to the Ebola virus; but the New Jersey governor is defending his approach to keeping state residents safe.
The policy goes beyond what federal health officials recommend, quarantining any person who has had contact with Ebola patients for up to 21 days, the incubation period of the virus. (The CDC recommends monitoring such people and keeping them off public transit for 21 days.) New York had also imposed a similar policy, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo backed down Sunday night, saying such individuals could spend the 21 days at home.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) on Sunday defended his abrupt Ebola quarantine policy, dismissing concerns that the aggressive treatment of health care workers would prevent American doctors from going overseas to combat the disease.
“The government’s job is to protect the safety and health of our citizens,” Christie said on “Fox News Sunday.” “I have no second thoughts about it.”
Christie said the quarantine arrangement was a necessary step to protect the public in densely populated areas, criticizing the federal Centers for Disease Control.
“The fact of the matter is, CDC protocols … have been a moving target,” Christie said.
The Guardian reports that the White House is concerned such policies will discourage health workers from traveling to treat Ebola:
“We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey, and others states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa,” an administration official said.
Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the United Nations, on Sunday became the highest-ranked administration official to officially comment on the crisis. She told NBC: “We need to make sure [returning healthcare workers] are treated like conquering heroes and not in any other way.”
Christie cited the case of an NBC News crew led by Dr. Nancy Snyderman, which “said they were going to self-quarantine and then two days later they were out picking up takeout food in Princeton.”
“I don’t believe when you are dealing with something as serious as this that we can count on a voluntary system. This is government’s job,” Christie said. He predicted that “the CDC will eventually come around to our point of view on this.”
The harshest criticism has come from a nurse, Kaci Hickox, who has been involuntarily quarantined in New Jersey after her return from West Africa. She told CNN her “basic human rights have been violated” by the quarantine:
Nurse Kaci Hickox was the first medical professional to be quarantined in New Jersey immediately upon returning to the United States from West Africa, where she had worked in treating Ebola patients.
“There always needs to be a balance, because I also want to be treated with compassion and humanity,” Hickox said on CNN’s State of the Union by phone from her hospital isolation. “I don’t feel like I have been treated that way in the past three days.”