SACRAMENTO (AP) — California health officials announced Wednesday that the state is requiring a 21-day quarantine for people traveling from Ebola-stricken areas who have had contact with infected patients.
Dr. Ron Chapman, the state’s health officer, said California is establishing a statewide standard to protect the public. Chapman said the extent of quarantines will be determined by county health officials on a case-by-case basis. That means some people could be isolated at home while others deemed lower risk are free to move about while being monitored.
A person who traveled to an Ebola-affected area as identified by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but did not come into contact with a person with Ebola will not be quarantined.
“Not everyone who has been to an Ebola-affected area should be considered high-risk,” Chapman said in a statement. “This order will allow local health officers to determine, for those coming into California, who is most at risk for developing this disease, and to contain any potential spread of infectious disease by responding to those risks appropriately.”
The active Ebola areas listed by the CDC are Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. According to census data, there are about 4,000 immigrants from Liberia and Sierra Leone in California. It’s not clear how many are from Guinea.
Health officials said some California health care workers have volunteered to help combat the epidemic in West Africa. The California Department of Public Health has not said how many people, if any, have been quarantined.
The department has not said how many of those health care workers have returned from those countries or whether they are being tracked.
Chapman said Wednesday’s order was intended to provide consistent guidelines for counties.
Riverside County’s health department announced Tuesday that two people who recently returned from West Africa but said they did not contact any patients were being monitored for 21 days by having them take their temperatures twice a day. They are considered low risk.
Orange County health officials are monitoring two recent travelers as well, according to the Orange County Register.
There have been no reported or confirmed cases of Ebola in California.
California is imposing the risked-based quarantines after New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were criticized by medical experts for ordering mandatory quarantines for health care workers, including a nurse who has shown no symptoms of Ebola. Cuomo has since relaxed the policy by allowing medical workers who showed no symptoms to remain at home.
The Pentagon announced this week that troops returning from Ebola missions will be isolated for 21 days.
California Medical Association spokeswoman Molly Weedn said the group representing doctors doesn’t have a policy on quarantines. And California Nurses Association spokesman Chuck Idelson said the nurses union has no comment on California’s quarantine standard.
The union on Tuesday said five California hospitals that say they are ready to treat the Ebola virus lack proper training and equipment. The contention was part of an ongoing effort to call attention to what the union says is inadequate preparation at University of California hospitals in Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Davis and Irvine.
Last week, the UC system told the California Department of Public Health that those facilities were ready for patients.
Gov. Jerry Brown also has held meetings with state agency heads, labor unions and leaders in the health care industry to address Ebola preparedness at hospitals and other medical facilities throughout California.
On Monday, the Democratic governor was asked by a reporter whether he was considering measures similar to those taken by Christie and Cuomo.
Without mentioning the governors by name, Brown said he is not inclined “to make a political decision on something as serious as Ebola,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.