The U.S. Centers for Disease Control has issued a new set of guidelines on how to handle health care workers returning from Ebola-affected countries of West Africa. The new guidelines come as the Obama administration clashes with state governments that have recently imposed quarantines on doctors and nurses who have been in Ebola zones.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest did not go as far as openly criticizing the governments of states like New York and New Jersey for requiring health workers coming from Ebola zones to be quarantined.
But he said any policy meant to protect Americans from Ebola should be based on science and should also consider the wider implications.
“We want to make sure that whatever policies are put in place in this country to protect the American public do not serve as a disincentive to doctors and nurses from this country volunteering to travel to West Africa to treat Ebola patients," said Earnest.
Earnest said people like Kaci Hickox are heroic. Hickox is the nurse who was quarantined in a tent by the U.S. state of New Jersey after she came back from working with Ebola patients in West Africa.
The case triggered outrage among some medical experts who criticized the measure as inhumane and unnecessary.
Meanwhile, a 5-year-old boy in New York tested negative for Ebola after arriving from Guinea with a low-grade fever.
The Obama administration has resisted calls for a travel ban or quarantines, saying the measures would hinder efforts to fight the disease at its source in West Africa.
The guidelines released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are only recommendations, and the federal government cannot force the states to adopt them.
Under U.S. law, federal authorities can detain, examine, and release people arriving in the U.S. who are suspected of carrying communicable diseases, but only the states have authority to enforce isolation and quarantine laws.
The question came up Monday on whether Samantha Power, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, will be scrutinized upon her return after visiting Ebola-afflicted nations.
Officials said Power will abide by the health laws of the state in which she lands, but they noted she may not be subject to quarantine since she is not a health worker.
State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki on Monday said Ambassador Power’s delegation did not have contact with people infected with Ebola.
“She is not visiting any Ebola treatment units. They are observing all hand-washing protocols and doing temperature screenings multiple times a day," said Psaki.
Also Monday, Pentagon officials said a small number of U.S. army soldiers deployed to help West African nations fight Ebola were put under quarantine at a base in Italy. Officials said none of the soldiers are exhibiting symptoms and are being watched only as a precaution.
White House officials continue to say the likelihood of a widespread outbreak on U.S. soil is extremely low.