Amid continued concerns that to quarantining healthcare workers will dissuade them from traveling to Ebola-infected nations, Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo rolled out a plan to offer financial incentives to doctors who fight the deadly virus abroad.
But Mr. de Blasio shot down the notion that the military reserves style incentives for doctors — which Mr. Cuomo hinted at yesterday — were a political effort to put a kinder face on a joint New York and New Jersey quarantine that led to fierce criticism from a nurse who was briefly detained in the Garden State.
“I’m doing this because I think it’s something we need to do,” Mr. de Blasio said today during a public safety briefing after a press conference about the New York City Marathon. “Gov. Cuomo and I discussed it, and believed equally that this is something the city and the state could contribute to ending the crisis.”
Mr. de Blasio said the best way to solve the Ebola problem as its root in Africa — and pointed out that Ebola has not taken hold in the United States.
“In the entire United States of America, a country of over 330 million people, there is one and only one case of Ebola,” Mr. de Blasio said, referring to the single remaining patient in New York, Craig Spencer. “Today, Dr. Spencer remains in serious but stable condition and we’re encouraged by that.”
The initiative announced today would ensure that those who travel to West Africa to treat Ebola would have their pay, health care, and employment status when they return — and are reimbursed for pay if it is not provided during a quarantine.
Mr. de Blasio also confirmed that the city would begin using the state’s guidelines for quarantines — which allow family members to visit, something that wasn’t allowed for the first people quarantined in the wake of Dr. Spencer’s diagnosis.
And the mayor said he believed quarantines were enforceable — even after the nurse detained in New Jersey, Kaci Hickox, has returned to Maine and left her home there.
“She was treated as if she’d done something wrong, when she is in fact a hero for what she did — serving people in need in Africa, and protecting not only them but protecting us in the process,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I think we have to be mindful of the fact that she was put through a very inappropriate and unfair experience, and, you know, I think some of her feelings come from that.”
In addition to the quarantine rolled out by Gov. Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the city is conducting “active monitoring” on 117 people as of Thursday morning, de Blasio spokeswoman Marti Adams said.
“The vast majority of these individuals are travelers arriving in New York City since October 11th from the three Ebola-affected countries who are being monitored post-arrival. The list also includes Bellevue Hospital staff taking care of Dr. Spencer, FDNY EMS staff who transported Dr. Spencer to Bellevue, the lab workers who conducted Dr. Spencer’s blood test, and the three people who had direct contact with Dr. Spencer prior to his arrival at Bellevue and who are currently under City quarantine,” she said.
None of those people are showing symptoms, the administration said, but the health department has established contact with them to ensure they are taking their temperature twice a day. They are not being restricted to their homes.
While the mayor and governor are now encouraging New York doctors to go to West Africa and fight the disease, Mr. de Blasio wouldn’t say whether the city was preparing for more doctors to return from West Africa to New York — and be subject to quarantines. He argued it would become harder and harder for healthcare workers to become infected.
“Literally in the month since this crisis, you’ve seen improved technique,” Mr. de Blasio said.
Much has been made of the cooperation — or lack thereof — between the city and state on Ebola. But as Mr. de Blasio spoke at the Javitz center, he overlooked the state of New Jersey just across the river. Had he been speaking with Mr. Christie, a Republican who he’s criticized over Ms. Hickox, to coordinate regional responses — especially since the states share a quarantine policy?
“Personally, no,” Mr. de Blasio said. “I think our health department is talking to health departments not only locally, but health departments around the country.”