N.Y., N.J. Say Quarantine Will Keep Some People At Home, Not At Hospitals

October 27, 2014

Update on Oct. 27 at 12:55 a.m. ET:

Hours after New York’s governor announced a quarantine policy that was based on home stays, rather than confinement in a medical facility, the New Jersey Governor’s Office has released a statement saying its policy is similar.

“The protocol is clear that a New Jersey resident with no symptoms, but who has come into contact with someone with Ebola, such as a health care provider, would be subject to a mandatory quarantine order and quarantined at home. Non-residents would be transported to their homes if feasible and, if not, quarantined in New Jersey,” said spokesman Kevin Roberts. The governor’s office said this was not a change in policy.

Kaci Hickox, the nurse currently quarantined at a hospital in New Jersey, lives in Maine.

As we’ve reported previously, Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health said such quarantines were unnecessary when people have not yet shown symptoms of Ebola. The federal government’s position is to first monitor people who could have been exposed to the virus, without isolating them. A senior administration official says:

“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.”

The official says the federal government is working on new guidelines for returning health care workers and that there should be more information on those changes “in the coming days.”

Our previous post continues:

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced Sunday that individuals subject to the state’s Ebola quarantine policy will be confined to their homes, not to medical facilities, for the length of their quarantine.

The mandatory policy applies to people returning to the state after having direct contact with Ebola-infected patients in West Africa. For the most part, that means health professionals who traveled to Liberia, Guinea or Sierra Leone to fight the devastating outbreak of the disease.

At a news conference Sunday night, the governor said those individuals will be required to remain at home for 21 days, and will have their health monitored by a local official twice daily. The governor repeatedly called health care workers who travel to West Africa “heroes,” and he said he anticipates they will cooperate fully with the home quarantine rules.

The policy applies to people who have no symptoms. A person with Ebola is not contagious until symptoms appear.

The announcement comes after New Jersey’s new quarantine policy has met with harsh criticism. Kaci Hickox, a nurse who has been quarantined at a hospital in New Jersey, has called her experience “frightening,” and said she’s worried such quarantines will discourage others from traveling to West Africa to battle Ebola.

However, Cuomo said that New York’s policy of home confinement, rather than hospitalization, wasn’t a shift in position. Rather, he said that the home-stay policy was what he was referring to when he and N.J. Gov. Chris Christie announced Friday they would impose quarantines. References to medical facilities, he said, referred to individuals who did not have a home where they could stay.

Cuomo said the state would encourage employers to pay individuals for their three weeks of self-quarantine; otherwise, he said, the state would compensate the individual for those three weeks. People on home quarantine would be permitted to receive visitors.

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.