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Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Ebola: Stopping the Spread on U.S. Soil

Ebola: Stopping the Spread on U.S. Soil

by Anna Blood, Intern
The Cochran Firm

The recent return of health care workers from the Ebola stricken countries of West Africa has sparked fear and concern over the spread of Ebola in the U.S. With this concern have come questions of whether the federal government’s current protocols in preventing the spread of the virus are sufficient.

Recently, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie took matters into their own hands by imposing mandatory 21-day quarantines of healthcare workers returning from Ebola-infected countries. These decisions were in response to Doctors Without Borders participant Doctor Craig Spencer, a New York City resident, testing positive for Ebola after returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa. Following the diagnosis, state officials scrambled to trace Dr. Spencer’s every step to prevent the spread of the virus in New York City.

Under Governor Chris Christie’s mandatory quarantine in New Jersey, Kaci Hickox, a nurse who also recently returned from treating Ebola patients was quarantined in a tent at a Newark hospital for three days before being released to her home. In response to Hickox threats to take legal action and the negativity from the White House, Hickox was released and allowed to continue her quarantine at home.

The Obama administration is concerned that a mandatory quarantine could have a negative impact on the Ebola aid in West Africa by dissuading health care workers from traveling there and ultimately increasing the spread of the virus. The Obama administration urges that with the international travel and movement of today, the only way to protect ourselves from the virus is to stop it at its source.

The CDC recently announced new guidelines recommending that people with a high risk of developing Ebola isolate themselves from others for 21 days. Additionally, those individuals would be banned from flying and would undergo direct active monitoring by a public health worker who would check their temperature twice daily.

Despite this, the White house has acknowledged the limits of its power to enforce any CDC guidelines and notes that state and local officials would ultimately make their own decisions about how to protect their citizens as states have significant authority in governing their citizens.

In response to the surmounting negativity from the White House, New York’s governor released details on the state’s quarantine procedures, noting that individuals would be allowed to stay in their homes for 21 days while state and local health care workers checked on them twice daily to monitor for Ebola symptoms. People with symptoms will be taken immediately to the hospital. Also, those whose employer will not compensate them during their quarantines will be paid by the state. Additionally, travelers who did not have direct contact with Ebola patients would not be required to stay at home but would be consulted twice daily by health officials over a three-week period.

Under New Jersey policies, returning healthcare workers, as well as anyone who has come in contact with Ebola patients, will be quarantined at home. If possible, any non-residents will be transported to their homes or quarantined in New Jersey.

Also this week, the Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno issued guidelines ordering troops returning from West Africa into a 21-day isolation separated from their families and other troops. Currently, a team of thirty soldiers and Major General A. Williams are quarantined in Italy where they will be monitored for 21 days at a separate location and will have their temperatures check twice daily.

While New York and New Jersey have been the focus of the media, other states are joining in the regulation to prevent the spread of Ebola. Illinois implemented similar rules requiring high-risk individuals who have had direct contact with an individual infected with Ebola to undergo a mandatory 21-day home quarantine. Virginia will soon begin actively monitoring travelers from West Africa while Florida is currently considering Ebola procedures. Additionally, Connecticut recently quarantined a family of six who had traveled to West Africa.

With looming tensions building between the states and the White house over Ebola regulations, a new federal policy is said to take effect next week requiring all travelers coming to the United States from Ebola affected areas to be actively monitored for 21 days.

While the federal government may challenge the states’ decisions to impose quarantines based on the possible negative effects on interstate commerce and travel, the states possess power under the U.S. Constitution to implement regulation to protect the health and safety of their citizens.

posted by The Cochran Firm at 1:14 PM

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