White House preparing guidelines for returning healthcare workers

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A senior administration official said late Sunday that work is underway on new guidelines for healthcare workers returning from Ebola-ravaged areas.

The official said the administration is working to develop guidelines that will protect Americans and enable workers to tackle the epidemic in West Africa.

“We have been taking a close look at policies for returning healthcare workers, recognizing that these medical professionals’ selfless efforts to fight this disease on the front lines will be critical to bringing this epidemic under control, the only way to eliminate the risk of additional cases here at home,” the official said.

The comments followed a report in The New York Times on Sunday that the White House is pushing New York and New Jersey to reverse controversial Ebola quarantines for healthcare workers returning from West Africa.

According to the Times, senior Obama administration officials have been in contact with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) ever since they instituted the quarantines on Friday, pleading with them to take another approach.

Christie defended his state's quarantine during an appearance on "Fox News Sunday" and said he believes the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) would eventually “come around” to his point of view and institute national quarantines.

“We have let the governors of New York, New Jersey and others states know that we have concerns with the unintended consequences of policies not grounded in science may have on efforts to combat Ebola at its source in West Africa,” the official said.

More consultations with state officials are expected as the national guidelines are developed, the official said.

President Obama on Sunday met with public health and national security officials who updated him on policy considerations for the new guidelines.

Obama underscored that the steps must be guided by the best medical science, the White House said.

He also emphasized that the measures “must recognize that healthcare workers are an indispensable element of our effort to lead the international community to contain and ultimately end this outbreak at its source, and should be crafted so as not to unnecessarily discourage those workers from serving,” the White House added.

— Justin Sink and Tim Devaney contributed to this report.