New Jersey's protocol to manage patients being screened for possible Ebola includes providing financial assistance to anyone who loses income because of a state-ordered quarantine, and trying to find housing for people who live out of state and cannot be taken home.
A week after first announcing stepped up quarantine measures, Gov. Chris Christie's administration on Friday released that and other details of its Ebola protocol in the form of a memo sent from the state Health Department to other state officials, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, the New Jersey Hospital Association and others who could be involved in carrying out the policies.
The Associated Press and other news outlets had been requesting details of the state's policies for several days. But they were not put into one document until the 5-page memo was sent out Thursday evening. No one in New Jersey has been diagnosed with the virus.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued new protocols earlier this week that are not as tough as what New Jersey, New York and some other states have put in place. New York also announced earlier this week that people who are not compensated during quarantines would be paid by the state government.
Under New Jersey's protocol, travelers who arrive at Newark Liberty International Airport from the three West African countries with Ebola outbreaks are to have their temperatures taken by federal officials. They are also to be asked questions to assess their risk of having the often-deadly virus.
Those who have temperatures above 100.4 degrees are to be taken to a hospital.
Travelers deemed to have at least some risk, including health care workers who were tending to Ebola patents in Africa, are to be subject to 21-day quarantine. They are not to travel by commercial vehicles.
New Jersey residents heading home to be quarantined are to be escorted by State Police.
The protocol does not lay out enforcement issues, such as what could happen if someone defies a quarantine order. A state law that authorizes the state health commissioner to order quarantines is silent on that topic, too.
In an interview Friday, state Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd said it is not clear what would happen if someone broke a quarantine. "That's probably more of a legal question, and it may vary by community and the relationship with the local health department," O'Dowd said. "Some of that is live conversation."
No one is under a New Jersey-issued mandatory quarantine, but the state says about 100 people who have arrived from West Africa this week are considered low-risk and are required to do self-monitoring. They are to take their temperature twice daily and report the results to local health officials.
Christie, along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, announced protocols on Oct. 24 for people who had been in the three West African nations.
The policy came under immediate criticism, partly because of the quarantine that night of a nurse who had been treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone. Kaci Hickox publicly complained and threatened to sue as she was kept for more than two days in an isolation tent inside University Hospital in Newark even though she said she did not have symptoms of Ebola.
A Maine judge on Friday struck down her quarantine order there.
Lawrence Gostin, a Georgetown University Law Center professor and expert in public health law, said Friday that he believes Christie's protocol would be met by the same fate if it were to be challenged by someone quarantined despite not having symptoms of an infectious disease.
"It's against the great weight of scientific proof," Gostin said. "You can't quarantine somebody based upon public fear or political considerations."
Associated Press Writer David Caruso in New York contributed to this report. Follow Mulvihill at http://www.twitter.com/geoffmulvihill