CDC offers new guidelines for U.S. health workers returning from West Africa – Part 1

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    The U.S. Centers for Disease Control sought to give new guidance today on the issue of Ebola quarantines. That came as New York and New Jersey pulled back from mandatory measures that triggered a weekend of wrangling.

  • JOSH EARNEST, White House Press Secretary:

    These kinds of policies need to be driven by science and the best scientific advice that is available.


    The White House kept pressing states today not to force doctors and nurses into quarantine if they have been in West Africa. But, already, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo had backed off his initial policy in a statement last night.

    GOV. ANDREW CUOMO, (D) New York: A health care professional who returns to this region who had exposure to infected people or citizens who are returning, are coming to the U.S. who had exposure to infected people will be asked to remain in their homes for a 21-day quarantine period. During those 21 days, health care workers will check on them twice a day to monitor their temperature and condition. If they develop symptoms, they will be transferred to a hospital.


    New Jersey followed suit, agreeing to release nurse Kaci Hickox from an isolation tent outside a Newark hospital. She had been confined for three days despite showing no symptoms and she had threatened to sue.

    Governor Chris Christie confirmed the policy change as he campaigned in Florida for a fellow Republican governor.

    GOV. CHRIS CHRISTIE, (R) New Jersey: I know she didn't want to be there. No one ever wants to be in the hospital, I suspect. And so I understand that. But the fact is, I have a much greater, bigger responsibility to the people, the public. So, I think when she has time to reflect, she will understand that as well.


    Along with New York and New Jersey, the state of Illinois, which has no Ebola cases so far, announced its own quarantine plan for those who've come in contact with Ebola patients abroad. Four other states, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and Georgia, stopped short of outright quarantines, but ramped up their monitoring efforts.

    Those moves came after Dr. Craig Spencer came down with Ebola in New York. He had returned from treating patients in Guinea. Just the same, the president's top medical advisers charged the restrictions are unjustified, and the head of the United Nations Ebola mission complained of hype and hysteria.

    But, despite the warnings, the U.S. Army unveiled its own quarantine policy today: Troops returning from Ebola duty in West Africa are being isolated for 21 days at a base in Italy out of an abundance of caution.

    The White House minimized the apparent contradiction.


    I know that there was this decision that was made by one commanding officer in the Department of Defense, but it doesn't reflect a department-wide policy that I understand is still under development.


    The quarantine debate is playing out as the number of Ebola cases worldwide has surpassed the 10,000 mark. Nearly half of those have resulted in death, mostly in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. The U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, was in Sierra Leone today to discuss the crisis with national leaders. Yesterday, she visited Guinea.

    SAMANTHA POWER, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations: Together, we can beat this epidemic. We have beaten every Ebola epidemic in history and we will do so, if we dramatically increase our involvement and our engagement.


    This afternoon, the CDC said U.S. medical workers returning from West Africa should agree to in-home isolation and monitoring if they suffered needle sticks or other direct exposure.

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