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States Revisiting Ebola Quarantines After Backlash From Medical Community, White House

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After both Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York imposed strict quarantines on Friday for those who came into contact with the Ebola virus, the White House and medical officials pushed for a less rigid policy. The quarantines in New York and New Jersey were imposed after a doctor in New York City, Craig Spencer, tested positive for the Ebola virus after returning from West Africa on a trip with Doctors Without Borders.

Governor Cuomo was first to step back from the more rigid policy saying on Sunday people could now be quarantined in their homes and see relatives. Governor Christie said he would continue forced quarantines but appeared to soften stance as to where they would be forcibly quarantined to.

At the center of the Christie controversy is a nurse, Kaci Hickox, who was grabbed after landing from flight into Newark Airport and involuntarily quarantined at a hospital in New Jersey. Hickox has tested negative repeatedly for Ebola and says she believes her rights are being violated by Governor Christie’s quarantine. In an interview Hickox said she was forced to live in a tent and use a porter potty with no access to a shower.

Until Sunday night, the quarantine orders by Mr. Christie, a Republican, and Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, had drawn withering criticism from many medical experts, who said they would discourage aid workers from volunteering to help eradicate the disease at its source. By midday Sunday, Kaci Hickox, the nurse who became the first person isolated under the new protocols in New Jersey, emerged as the public face of the opposition, calling the treatment she received “inhumane” and disputing Mr. Christie’s assertion a day earlier that she was “obviously ill.”

“If he knew anything about Ebola he would know that asymptomatic people are not infectious,” Ms. Hickox told CNN. Even some who acknowledged the states’ authority to enact the policy took issue with its implementation in New Jersey.“We have to think how we treat the people who are doing this noble work,” Mr. de Blasio said. At a late afternoon news conference, he said Ms. Hickox’s treatment was “inappropriate,” adding: “We owe her better than that.”

What level of knowledge state officials possess on Ebola is unknown but it is unlikely that Governor Christie is particularly concerned with encouraging or discouraging health workers from going to West Africa. The quarantine seemed mostly based on political posturing as numerous medical experts disputed the validity of Governor Christie’s assertions related to Ebola. For his part Christie said in an interview with Fox News that he believes his policy will be adopted across the nation which may prove true as Illinois and Florida said they would be following suit.

Regardless of how opportunistic and grandiose state and local officials are being with Ebola quarantine policies they could prove popular given the public’s lack of trust in the CDC after a series of missteps and miscommunications related to the Thomas Eric Duncan case in Texas.

Update: In response to criticism Governor Christie is hoping to release Hickox today and “send her back to Maine.”

CommunityThe Bullpen

States Revisiting Ebola Quarantines After Backlash From Medical Community, White House

{!hitembed ID=”hitembed_1″ width=”500″ height=”281″ align=”none” !}

After both Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York imposed strict quarantines on Friday for those who came into contact with the Ebola virus, the White House and medical officials pushed for a less rigid policy. The quarantines in New York and New Jersey were imposed after a doctor in New York City, Craig Spencer, tested positive for the Ebola virus after returning from West Africa on a trip with Doctors Without Borders.

Governor Cuomo was first to step back from the more rigid policy saying on Sunday people could now be quarantined in their homes and see relatives. Governor Christie said he would continue forced quarantines but appeared to soften stance as to where they would be forcibly quarantined to.

At the center of the Christie controversy is a nurse, Kaci Hickox, who was grabbed after landing from flight into Newark Airport and involuntarily quarantined at a hospital in New Jersey. Hickox has tested negative repeatedly for Ebola and says she believes her rights are being violated by Governor Christie’s quarantine. In an interview Hickox said she was forced to live in a tent and use a porter potty with no access to a shower.

Until Sunday night, the quarantine orders by Mr. Christie, a Republican, and Mr. Cuomo, a Democrat, had drawn withering criticism from many medical experts, who said they would discourage aid workers from volunteering to help eradicate the disease at its source. By midday Sunday, Kaci Hickox, the nurse who became the first person isolated under the new protocols in New Jersey, emerged as the public face of the opposition, calling the treatment she received “inhumane” and disputing Mr. Christie’s assertion a day earlier that she was “obviously ill.”

“If he knew anything about Ebola he would know that asymptomatic people are not infectious,” Ms. Hickox told CNN. Even some who acknowledged the states’ authority to enact the policy took issue with its implementation in New Jersey.“We have to think how we treat the people who are doing this noble work,” Mr. de Blasio said. At a late afternoon news conference, he said Ms. Hickox’s treatment was “inappropriate,” adding: “We owe her better than that.”

What level of knowledge state officials possess on Ebola is unknown but it is unlikely that Governor Christie is particularly concerned with encouraging or discouraging health workers from going to West Africa. The quarantine seemed mostly based on political posturing as numerous medical experts disputed the validity of Governor Christie’s assertions related to Ebola. For his part Christie said in an interview with Fox News that he believes his policy will be adopted across the nation which may prove true as Illinois and Florida said they would be following suit.

Regardless of how opportunistic and grandiose state and local officials are being with Ebola quarantine policies they could prove popular given the public’s lack of trust in the CDC after a series of missteps and miscommunications related to the Thomas Eric Duncan case in Texas.

Update: In response to criticism Governor Christie is hoping to release Hickox today and “send her back to Maine.”

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Jane Hamsher

Jane Hamsher

Jane is the founder of Firedoglake.com. Her work has also appeared on the Huffington Post, Alternet and The American Prospect. She’s the author of the best selling book Killer Instinct and has produced such films Natural Born Killers and Permanent Midnight. She lives in Washington DC.
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