By LOUIS FLORES
Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D-NY) announced that medical workers arriving into New York City-area airports after having provided care to people with Ebola in West African nations will face a mandatory 21-day quarantine.
The announcement, made at a joint news conference with Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ), follows the diagnosis of the first case of Ebola in New York City, made yesterday. The first person diagnosed with Ebola had self-monitored himself prior to developing Ebola symptoms. However, that person, Dr. Craig Spencer, failed to adhere to a strict self-quarantine for the recommended period of 21 days for those who had been possibly exposed to others known to have Ebola, even though Dr. Spencer had treated people with Ebola in Guinea, one of three West African nations in which the current Ebola outbreak is primarily centered. Dr. Spencer has been criticized for having made several public excursions in New YorkCity, even though he had been at-risk.
Gov. Cuomo's announcement of the mandatory 21-day quarantine for at-risk medical workers is the first major adjustment of New York State Ebola protocols after elected officials have repeatedly assured the public that Ebola protocols were considered comprehensive and complete.
What is more, today's announcement by Gov. Cuomo appeared to go further than New York City Ebola protocols. Earlier today, New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett said that she was deferring to federal health officials to decide if mandatory quarantines needed to be considered for medical workers, creating a situation where federal, state, and city Ebola protocols do not agree in respect of mandatory quarantines.
Following Dr. Spencer's diagnosis of Ebola, his fiancée and two of his friends were quarantined, but the form of their quarantines was not identical. Health officials decided that Dr. Spencer’s fiancée had to be quarantined at Bellevue Hospital, where Dr. Spencer is himself receiving treatment. However, health officials decided that two of Dr. Spencer’s friends could be self-quarantined at home.
Since Monday, Progress Queens has been asking whether people, who may have come into contact with others, who are known to have Ebola, should be required to observe a 21-day period of quarantine in a hospital setting, but state and city health officials spent a week avoiding the issue. With Gov. Cuomo's and Dr. Bassett's remarks today, it appears that state and city officials have embraced a divergent approach in respect of the application of mandatory quarantines to medical workers. Even so, state and city health officials have refused to agree whether all quarantines should be observed in a hospital setting. Perhaps after Dr. Bassett punted the issue of mandatory quarantines to federal officials, it will take the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and/or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to settle the incongruities.