New York and New Jersey’s Ebola quarantine policy may have gone too far, according to new guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Monday.
For people who may have been exposed to Ebola, but are not showing symptoms, the CDC guidelines rely on self-monitoring, along with check-ins from the local health department.
“Fundamentally, people want to do the right thing,” said CDC director Thomas Frieden at a Monday press briefing.
That’s at odds with recent policies in New York and New Jersey to quarantine all health care workers returning from Ebola-affected countries.
Kaci Hickox, a nurse returning from Sierra Leone who was placed into a 21 day, involuntary quarantine in New Jersey, threatened a lawsuit and was released Monday. She tested negative for Ebola.
Frieden warned against treating healthcare workers as “pariahs.” He said the guidelines would protect others while recognizing their “heroic work" in Africa.
“If we can’t control it there, the risk to us would increase,” Frieden said. “I wish we could get to zero risk in the U.S., but we can only get to zero risk by fixing the source.”
Travelers from the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone must be in daily contact with local health department for 21 days. They receive a kit with a thermometer and informational materials.
People who are at “some risk” for developing Ebola are health care workers who are caring for Ebola patients in West Africa. Local public health authorities on a case-by-case basis will assess those people, which could result in restrictions on flights, public transit or going to work.
A person is considered “high risk” if they had direct exposure to the bodily fluids of an Ebola patient or body – a needle stick, for instance – without proper protection. The recommendation for them is restricted travel and isolation at home or the hospital.
Monitoring will begin immediately in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.
These are guidelines, not rules. Enforcement is up to states and local governments.
“If they wish to be more stringent than what CDC recommends, that’s within their authority. But we believe these are based on science,” Frieden said.