New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie defended his heavily criticized decision to forcibly quarantine a nurse returning from West Africa for Ebola on Tuesday morning, saying the state’s policy of mandatory quarantining of returning health workers will remain in place.
“I don’t think it’s draconian,” Christie, appearing on the Today show, said of New Jersey’s mandatory 21-day quarantine on health care workers returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. “The members of the American public believe it is common sense, and we are not moving an inch. Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change.”
Nurse Kaci Hickox was discharged and allowed to go home to Maine Monday after being held in isolation for three days at University Hospital in Newark over protests from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), members of the Obama administration, and her lawyer. “Governors ultimately have the responsibility to protect the public health and public safety,” Christie said, noting that when Hickox tested negative she was sent home.
Christie denied he had acted out of political expediency, arguing that mandatory quarantines are a nonpartisan issue, having been adopted by at least six red and blue states. “I will not submit to any political pressure in doing anything less than I believe is necessary,” he said.
The governor also said the CDC has been too slow to change its policies, and is now “incrementally taking steps to the policy we put in effect in New Jersey.” The CDC announced on Monday new guidelines for people traveling from West Africa, but still recommends voluntary at-home isolation rather than state-mandated quarantines.
“What’s the difference of telling someone who has been a health care worker at high risk that they can’t go in public places, public transportation and we want them to work from home, what’s the difference between that and a quarantine?” he said. “They don’t want to admit that we’re right and they were wrong.”
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