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Obama says U.S. can't seal itself off from world

President Barack Obama shakes hands with Dr. Kent Brantly, an Ebola survivor, during an event with health care professionals at the White House on Wednesday in Washington.
President Barack Obama shakes hands with Dr. Kent Brantly, an Ebola survivor, during an event with health care professionals at the White House on Wednesday in Washington.
Published Oct. 30, 2014

Washington

Obama says U.S. can't seal itself off from world

Pushing to confront Ebola at its West African source, President Barack Obama said Wednesday the United States was not immune to the disease but cautioned against discouraging American health care workers with restrictive measures that confine them upon their return from the afflicted region. "We can't hermetically seal ourselves off," he declared.

Obama said doctors and nurses from the United States who have volunteered to fight Ebola in West Africa are American heroes who must be treated with dignity and respect.

His remarks came amid debate between the federal government and several states over how returning health care workers should be monitored.

The White House has pushed back against overly restrictive measures, including proposals for travel bans or isolation measures adopted by some states.

Maine

Nurse vows to end home confinement

A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa said she plans to end her voluntary quarantine and even stepped outside her home briefly on Wednesday.

Kaci Hickox's words and actions signaled a potential showdown with state police monitoring her home and state officials seeking to legally enforce the quarantine. Police stood across the street and watched as Hickox held an impromptu press conference outside with her boyfriend.

State officials are seeking a court order allowing state troopers to detain Hickox, said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.

Hickox, who has shown no symptoms of Ebola, said she was abiding by the state's voluntary quarantine by having no contact with people Tuesday and Wednesday. But she said she'll defy the state if the policy isn't changed by today.

Washington

Pentagon orders troop quarantine

Ordering firm restrictions for U.S. troops returning from West Africa, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that the military men and women helping fight Ebola must undergo 21-day quarantines — longer than required for many civilian health care workers.

Announcing his decision in Washington, Hagel said, "This is also a policy that was discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women, and they very much wanted a safety valve on this."

Hagel's restrictive policy for U.S. troops was a response to a recommendation sent to him Tuesday by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on behalf of the heads of each of the military services.

In his memo to Hagel, Dempsey said the military chiefs felt compelled to take greater precautions in light of "recent uncertainty surrounding domestic Ebola cases."

Times wires

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