No Quarantine In D.C. Area For Arrivals From Ebola Stricken Nations

Unlike New York and New Jersey, there will be no Ebola quarantine in the Washington, D.C. area for people arriving from the west African nations where it has become a crisis:

One day after governors in New York, New Jersey and Illinois imposed a mandatory 21-day quarantine on medical workers returning from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa, public health officials in the District, Maryland and Virginia did not follow suit Saturday, intensifying a national debate over how to prevent the spread of the disease.

Health officials are working to develop a consistent approach for the area around the nation’s capital. Joxel Garcia, director of the D.C. Department of Health, said that a mandatory quarantine was not scientifically justified and could have a chilling effect on the medical personnel, many of them volunteers, needed to treat Ebola patients at home and overseas.

The differing views highlight challenges confronting federal and state politicians as well as health officials as they race to keep up with fast-changing circumstances and competing political, scientific and legal demands, experts said.


Lawrence O. Gostin, a global health professor at Georgetown University Law School and an adviser to the World Health Organization, said quarantining medical workers might sound reassuring, but it is an overreaction that if widely adopted “will come back to haunt us.”

“The more we make it difficult for health workers to stem the epidemic in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, the more at risk we are,” Gostin said. “Because in the modern global world, you’re not going to be able to put those three countries in cellophane wrap. People will travel to other parts of the world and come in through different countries.”

Critics of current federal monitoring rules say they are too lax, allowing people with potential exposure to Ebola to endanger others. Others say self-monitoring eliminates almost any chance of transmission because Ebola typically is contagious only after symptoms emerge.

Dulles Airport is, of course, one of the five U.S. airports through which arrivals from the Ebola zone are required to arrive in the U.S. under new regulations. Two others — Newark Liberty and JFK Airport — are in the New York/New Jersey area, and the remaining two are Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta and O’Hare in Chicago. There hasn’t been any comment from officials in Illinois or Georgia as of yet about imposing a rule similar to the one that Governors Christie and Cuomo imposed on Friday, but even with just the D.C  area not imposing the same quarantine it gives people arriving from overseas a way to enter the U.S. without facing the prospect of being quarantined for three weeks. If the same is true in Illinois and/or Georgia, then it would seem to me that the quarantine in the New York area will essentially end up being nothing more than symbolism.

Update: Illinois has enacted its own quarantine policy for “high risk travelers” from the nations dealing with the Ebola outbreak. There doesn’t appear to have been any decision in Georgia for arrivals at Hartsfield-Jackson.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. JKB says:

    If the same is true in Illinois and/or Georgia, then it would seem to me that the quarantine in the New York area will essentially end up being nothing more than symbolism.

    Very powerful symbolism if another case of Ebola arrives at say Dulles then travels to NYC where they get hospitalized. Namely, the governors did everything they could within their sovereign powers but the federal government let the Ebola endanger their states’ citizens.

    Still it seems more reasonable would be to hold arrivals overnight to ensure they aren’t masking symptoms. If they don’t show any fatigue or muscle aches then they are monitored but not restricted. If they develop the flu like symptoms they are put on home quarantine, possibly tested. At the first sign of any fever, they are moved to hospital quarantine and tested.

    What really needs to be contained is the destroying of innocent businesses because someone exposed to Ebola refuses to self-restict their movements when they start feeling poorly. I hope the bowling alley sues that NYC doctor into the poor house.

  2. beth says:

    @JKB: It’s quite telling that your sympathy goes not to the doctor who put his life on the line to help others but for the business that had to close for a whole two days. What a mensch you are.

  3. JKB says:


    My sympathies might be more for the doctor, if full well knowing the signs and risk of Ebola, he had constrained his movements when he started feeling bad rather than traipsing all over town then calling it in when his fever spiked.

    Remember, he didn’t suddenly collapse.

    And we shouldn’t forget that NBC “Doctor” who violated her quarantine for some soup forcing that restaurant to be shutdown. Many small businesses can’t survive a two day shutdown with hazmat clean up costs because some asshole doctor doesn’t care about violating quarantine.

    I hope they both get sued out of existence.

  4. JKB says:

    Seems Illinois is also quarantining. What is it with these Blue States, don’t they know how much this hurts Obama?

    What we do know, is that that there doesn’t seem to be a consensus among the health “experts”. We got the CDC going from masks optional, showing a little skin o-kay to full blown African setting recommendations for US health care settings. It’s almost like they don’t really know what they are talking about.

    We have this where in 1995, some hemorrhagic fevers were shown to be far more aerosol transmissible in cool, dry conditions (not unlike a US hospital) than in the hot, humid conditions of Sub-Saharan Africa. Not confirmed with Ebola, yet, but certainly calls into question the “mask optional” CDC recommendations.

    It’s almost like you have to take everything they say with a grain of salt because it turns out to be less then accurate and driven more by political concerns. Hmm?

  5. JKB says:

    Seems like a good plan shaping up, route all of through DC.

  6. lounsbury says:

    @JKB: holding overnight is pure idiocy and theatre you stupid git. If they are not symptomatic, then there is nothing at all to hold people for as 24 hours guarantees nothing at all….

    It is pure abuse of power in the worst form of panic driven politics – you might as well hold them for being bloody witches.

    Indeed by your harping and your idiotic quotes around experts, it rather seems that is precisely your level of understanding.

  7. JKB says:


    Well, if we are going to call names, you moron. But a 8-24 hr hold on arrival ensures we catch those who are using things like Tylenol to hide their fever. It also allows observation so that a determination if the individual is showing early signs, such as fatigue, weakness, muscle aches that would warrant closer monitoring after release or ordering home quarantine.

  8. lounsbury says:

    Yes we calling names because you are a drooling idiot.

    A hold for 24 hours does really no such thing – unless of course you’re seizing all belongings, strip searching and the like – and your other “early signs” are bloody meaningless you stupid git, being neither quantifiable nor in any way closely associated particularly with onset of infectious period.

    Such a hold is idiotic, meaningless theatre meant largely to assuage the panic-based reaction of your sort.

    An active and colossal waste of resources.

  9. grumpy realist says:

    @JKB: So what you’re saying is that not only should we hold these people for 24 hours, but we also monitor their activity to make certain they don’t slip themselves an Ibuprofen? (Which would require of course monitoring them into a bathroom, of course….)

    Curiouser and curiouser.