Obama criticizes states' Ebola quarantine rules

The United States must continue to be a global leader in the fight against Ebola by supporting health workers traveling to West Africa, President Barack Obama said.

"America in the end is not defined by fear—that's not who we are," Obama said in a Tuesday address, critiquing some states' policies of forcing returning humanitarian workers into quarantine.

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Emphasizing the importance of deploying the full capabilities of the American health-care system to West African countries suffering from the disease, Obama said that the federal government is advocating for "new monitoring and movement guidance that is sensible, based in science and tailored to the unique circumstances" of each health worker returning to the U.S.

A national debate has raged about whether to quarantine people coming from Ebola-affected regions since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced new rules in their states on Friday.

Along with enhanced screening, both states now require that all health-care professionals who have worked with Ebola patients in West Africa be involuntarily quarantined for 21 days. After their announcement, several other states have issued similar guidance.

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"We don't want to do things that aren't based on science and best practices because if we do, then we're just putting another barrier on somebody who's already doing really important work on our behalf," Obama said in response to a question about quarantine rules used by different states.

Speaking with the media in Rhode Island on Tuesday, Christie defended his Ebola policy decisions, saying "the fact is we are doing the right thing."

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other federal agencies have pushed against mandatory quarantines—arguing that it will discourage much-needed aid workers from traveling to West Africa—but many lawmakers have pushed back on the grounds of preserving domestic public health security.

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