Ebola Quarantine in the U.S. Called ‘Inhumane’ and ‘Draconian’

New York and New Jersey are requiring a 21-day isolation period for travelers who had direct contact with patients in West Africa.

Morning commuters on the New York City subway on Oct. 24. (Photo: Lucas Jackson/Reuters)

Oct 26, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Kristina Bravo is Assistant Editor at TakePart.

New York and New Jersey are beefing up their precautions against Ebola, but not everyone approves.

A senior health official on Sunday criticized the 21-day mandatory quarantine for travelers who had direct contact with patients in West Africa arriving in New York and New Jersey, saying the measures could dissuade American health workers from volunteering to help battle the epidemic in the ravaged region. The quarantine was imposed after Craig Spencer, a New York City doctor who returned from Guinea, tested positive for Ebola.

"I don't want to be directly criticizing the decision that was made but we have to be careful that there are unintended consequences," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Meet the Press. He called the move “draconian,” saying it exceeds federal regulations.

"The best way to stop this epidemic is to help the people in West Africa,” said Fauci. “We do that by sending people over there, not only from the U.S.A. but from other places.”

Kaci Hickox, a nurse who came home from treating patients in Sierra Leone, was put in isolation on Friday despite showing no symptoms, and blood tests coming up negative for Ebola. The Texas native criticized her treatment in an essay she wrote for the Dallas Morning News Saturday.

“I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa,” she wrote. “I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear, and most frightening, quarantine.”

In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Hickox described her treatment as “inhumane”:

She remains quarantined at University Hospital in Newark, N.J.

The New York Times reported that administration officials have been urging the governors of New York and New Jersey to reverse the order, but they’re standing by their decision. Illinois and Florida have announced that they’re adopting similar measures.

“I’m sorry if in any way [Hickox] was inconvenienced but inconvenience that could occur from having folks that are symptomatic and ill out amongst the public is a much, much greater concern of mine,” New Jersey Governor Chris Christie told the Times.

According to the World Health Organization, as of Friday, the number of Ebola cases has exceeded 10,000, including 4,922 deaths. Some parts of Africa are beginning to recover. Senegal and Nigeria have been declared Ebola-free.