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Cuomo defends Ebola quarantine policy

Posted by Karen DeWitt on

Governor Cuomo defended his decision to quarantine travelers and health care workers returning from West Africa through New York City area airports if they’ve been in contact with Ebola patients. Cuomo’s faced intense criticism since the policy was announced over the weekend, but he says he’s doing what he thinks is necessary to keep the public calm and safe.

Cuomo says he did not loosen a quarantine policy Sunday night that was imposed by him and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie on travelers and health care workers from West Africa Friday, following a weekend of intense criticism from the Obama Administration and federal health officials. There’s also been negative publicity over a nurse who returned from treating Ebola patients but displayed no symptoms who was detained against her will in a tent outside a New Jersey hospital. She was released to her home in Maine on Monday afternoon.

“The policy I detailed (Sunday) is the same policy that we outlined on Friday,” Cuomo said.

And Cuomo took a shot at the Centers for Disease Control, which has chided Cuomo and Christie over the quarantine. Cuomo says the CDC is recommending a “lower standard” that sets the minimum precautionary steps to be taken.

“We’re in the middle of the problem ,they haven’t even published the protocol,” the Governor said.

Cuomo says he knows the CDC thinks he is being “too cautious” in ordering the quarantine, but says his ultimate goal is to keep the people of New York safe. And he says the New York metropolitan area is not like Nebraska or Oklahoma. Cuomo says if symptoms do appear, it will be much easier to limit the spread to others if the patient has  been confined to their home and not out in public, which he says is “logistically very difficult” to trace.  

Dr. Craig Spencer, who is in Bellevue hospital with Ebola, traveled to several public places including a bowling alley, a restaurant, and the New York City subway while he was feeling under the weather but had not yet developed a fever, which is considered a sign that a person could infect others. All of the places where Dr. Spencer visited have now been declared safe.

Cuomo says the state will pay the expenses of anyone forced to stay in their home for three weeks, if their employer won’t cover them, and he says it will not be a bad experience for those under the quarantine.

“Enjoy your family, enjoy your kids, enjoy your friends,“ Cuomo said.

“Read my book,” the governor quipped. Cuomo has recently published a memoir which has so far sold less than 1000 copies.

In addition to Dr. Spencer, a five year old boy from the Bronx who recently traveled to Guinea, is in the hospital, after his family said he was sick and had developed a fever.

The governor says state authorities are currently seeking voluntary quarantine for anyone returning from West Africa who has been in contact with Ebola patients.  But he says health workers will visit those quarantined twice a day, at unannounced times, and if they find the person is violating the quarantine, it can be enforced by law. 

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