Udi Offer, executive director of the New Jersey Chapter of the ACLU, told NJ.com Sunday that the organization is demanding that Gov. Christie provide more information about why he chose to issue a mandatory quarantine order.
“Coercive measures like mandatory quarantine of people exhibiting no symptoms of Ebola and when not medically necessary raise serious constitutional concerns about the state abusing its powers,” Offer said.
The mandatory quarantine order could frighten the public and deter sick individuals from seeking treatment out of fear of quarantine, Offer told NJ.com.
“This is a challenging time for New Jersey, but decisions must be made based on sound medicine, and not on fear,” Offer said. “Governor Christie must provide more information to the public about how the state came to the conclusion that mandatory quarantine of our healthcare workers was medically necessary.”
An Obama administration official told The New York Times Sunday that the federal government has been pressuring Gov. Cuomo and Gov. Christie to overturn their mandatory quarantine orders. Federal officials told the Times that total quarantine for healthcare workers are unnecessary and ineffective.
The Times also reported that Hickox, the nurse quarantined in New Jersey, is planning legal action regarding the quarantine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, made the rounds of the Sunday morning talk shows to express concern about the orders.
Fauci, a point-person for the Obama administration on the Ebola crisis, said on ABC's This Week that he “would not have recommended” the mandatory quarantine because asymptomatic individuals cannot transmit the virus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to make policy based on “scientific data,” he said.
Fauci told Charlie Rose on CBS's Face the Nation that the move could discourage Americans from traveling to West Africa to attack the crisis at its source.
“The idea of a blanket quarantine for people who come back could possibly have a negative consequence of essentially disincentivizing people from wanting to go there,” Fauci told Rose. “The reason that's important, Charlie, is because the best way to protect Americans is to stop the epidemic in Africa. And we need those healthcare workers to do that.”
The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology echoed Fauci's concern in a statement it put out later Sunday.
“APIC believes that quarantining healthcare professionals returning from caring for Ebola patients in West Africa will deter potential healthcare volunteers and lead to increased difficulty in assembling care teams in West Africa and the U.S.,” its statement said.
“Forced quarantines of healthcare workers with no symptoms of Ebola who have risked their lives to protect others are unnecessarily harsh and are not aligned with scientific evidence. Quarantines may affect the healthcare worker's ability to make a living and may also have negative emotional and social consequences as a result of being stigmatized for their service,” its statement went on to argue.
Perhaps prompted by critics, which have included The White House, Gov. Cuomo Sunday said all returning health workers with no symptoms in New York would be confined to their homes, not a hospital, and would be monitored for the 21-day incubation period. This is similar to but still more strict than the CDC model, which requires active monitoring but does not restrict movement. New Jersey, which continues to hold Hickox at University Hospital in Newark, has not acknowledged any loosening of its quarantine policy.
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