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Christie Defends Quarantine And Jabs At CDC Over Ebola

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, (right) announced a new mandatory 21-day quarantine Friday, alongside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Mark Lennihan
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, (right) announced a new mandatory 21-day quarantine Friday, alongside New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Gov. Chris Christie says that a new rule requiring a 21-day quarantine for people who've been in contact with Ebola patients is necessary to protect the public in New Jersey and other states — and that the CDC "eventually will come around to our point of view on this."

Dr. Anthony Fauci, leader of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, disagrees, saying the quarantine could hamper efforts to combat the deadly outbreak in West Africa.

Saying the CDC's protocols "have been a moving target," Christie tells Fox News Sunday that the quarantine makes sense in a densely populated state such as New Jersey.

But Fauci disagreed, saying that there are other options besides a plan that he called "a little bit draconian" in an interview on Meet the Press.

"The best way to protect us is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those health care workers so we do not want to put them in a position where it makes it very, very uncomfortable for them to even volunteer to go," Fauci says, according to the AP.

Fauci said the current CDC protocol of monitoring, done by either members of the public or by medical workers, are viable options to a quarantine. He also noted that Ebola isn't contagious until those who have it begin to exhibit symptoms. (As NPR has noted, Ebola can only be transmitted through direct contact with infected bodily fluids, not through the air.)

In addition to New Jersey, mandatory quarantines have been instituted in New York and Illinois. The differing opinions over the move were aired Sunday as an American nurse who flew to New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone remains in quarantine, despite a preliminary blood test that found she doesn't have Ebola. That nurse, Kaci Hickox, has criticized the policy that was enacted on the same day her flight arrived at Newark's airport.

The new quarantine policy followed the revelation last week that a New York doctor was diagnosed with Ebola after returning from treating patients in West Africa. A public debate erupted after it was revealed that Dr. Craig Spencer, 33, had traveled widely around the city, using mass transit. But officials insist that his actions haven't put more people at risk, noting that the doctor was put in an isolation unit at Bellevue Hospital soon after he first reported symptoms.

Christie and Cuomo have said the public health risk is too great to leave monitoring and isolation up to people who may have been infected with Ebola. Responding to some of Fauci's concerns today, Christie said the CDC's plan counts on "a voluntary system with folks who may or may not comply."

"If anything else, the government's job is to protect the safety and health of our citizens. And so, we've taken this action and I absolutely have no second thoughts about it," he said.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.