The governors of New York and New Jersey defended their controversial decision to force medical workers who treated Ebola in West Africa to undergo a 21-day quarantine. Even as the nation’s top infectious disease doctor criticized the move, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said he expects the quarantine will become national policy in the near future.
“I think this is a policy that will become a national policy sooner or later,” Christie said on Fox News. “I don’t think when you’re dealing with something as serious as this you can count on voluntary system.”
Christie insisted he has “absolutely no second thoughts” about his decision. For his part, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said the quarantine is legally enforceable but expressed confidence that people would comply voluntarily. “It’s highly unlikely that a doctor who is coming back, who just volunteered, who may be infected, wouldn’t cooperate with the authorities. It’s exactly antithetical to what the doctor does,” he said, according to the New York Daily News. “But if you had someone who didn’t want to cooperate, you can enforce it legally. There’s no doubt about that.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases criticized the mandatory quarantines, saying that it could discourage volunteers from traveling to West Africa. “We do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer,” he said. Fauci said that aggressive monitoring can be just as effective as a quarantine considering that people infected with Ebola don’t become contagious until they show symptoms. Meanwhile, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, who is on an official trip to West Africa, said on NBC News that health care workers should be “treated like conquering heroes and not stigmatized for the tremendous work that they have done.”