The Obama administration steadfastly refuses to institute a travel ban from Ebola epidemic countries, saying it would somehow make the outbreak worse. But they have authorized the U.S. military to quarantine personnel in those countries for up to 21 days, should commanders feel it necessary.
Last month, the president authorized the deployment of up to 4,000 U.S. troops to the region for support and logistical issues. They are not expected to be involved directly with patients, but should commanders suspect they have been exposed to Ebola, they are now authorized to order the troops be held in seclusion and monitored for three weeks.
CNN reports, “In an unprecedented move to protect U.S. troops that might be exposed to Ebola, U.S. military commanders are being given the authority to quarantine troops for 21 days at a Defense Department facility where they will be monitored for signs of the disease and treated if they do contract the virus, a Defense Department memo explained.”
This precaution is in line with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and World Health Organization protocols for Ebola, but stand in stark contrast with the Obama administration’s reluctance to institute the same precautions for civilians from western Africa countries currently experiencing the worst Ebola epidemic on record.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters Wednesday that a travel ban is “not something that’s not on the table at this point.”
According to CNN, “Commanders also will be given the authority to isolate their entire unit in the region for the final 10 days of a deployment if necessary. All troops will be monitored for 21 days after returning from the mission.”
Currently, citizens of Ebola outbreak countries are required to self-report their possible exposure. The “honor system” of self-reporting was violated by Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was the first to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S., when he did not voluntarily disclose that he’d carried a pregnant woman in the throes of Ebola. The woman died, and days later Duncan flew to the U.S.