Newark Star Ledger, October 28, 2014
We are relieved that Governor Christie has freed Kaci Hickox from her inhumane and possibly illegal confinement to a tent behind Newark’s University Hospital. Ms. Hickox, a heroic nurse and epidemiologist, returned to the U.S. last week after risking her own life to help stem the Ebola outbreak in West Africa by caring for infected patients as a member of a Doctors Without Borders team.
At the same time, we remain outraged and deeply concerned over the Governor’s quarantine order — a dangerous and shameful decision based on faulty science, bad public health policy and irresponsible political pandering that risks stigmatizing people affected by Ebola, discouraging others from volunteering to help fight the outbreak, and undermining the public’s trust in health care workers and public health officials
“Out of an abundance of caution” is the phrase we’ve heard several times during this and other public health crises, when officials try to quell public anxiety with measures that often fly in the face of reason and actually foment rather than allay people’s fears.
Such is the case with Governor Christie’s order subjecting healthcare workers who have had close contact with Ebola-infected patients in West Africa to a 21-day quarantine, regardless of whether or not they display any symptoms. At a time when elected officials should be reinforcing the science behind Ebola transmission–that it can only occur when a person is symptomatic–the Governor’s quarantine order undermines the efforts of the C.D.C. and others to educate the public and implement sound public health policies to prevent an outbreak in the U.S.