NEW YORK – Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo’s Ebola quarantine policy met with withering criticism Monday from AIDS experts who said it could be counterproductive as well as the governor’s Republican campaign opponent, who said it didn’t go far enough.
Three days after Cuomo imposed a 21-day quarantine on health workers returning from Ebola-stricken nations and a day after the governor relaxed that policy to allow people to serve their quarantines at home, more than 100 AIDS activists, researchers and doctors wrote a letter to the governor condemning his actions on Ebola.
The governor’s quarantine policy “is not supported by scientific evidence” and “may have consequences that are the antithesis of effective public health policy,” said the letter, which was signed by AIDS activists such as the head of ACT UP NY as well as more than 35 physicians, including medical school professors at Columbia, Harvard, Johns Hopkins and Yale.
Most notably, quarantines “will potentially have a profound effect on efforts to recruit U.S.-based health care professionals who are desperately needed to help combat the burgeoning epidemic in West Africa while increasing stigma toward persons who come from those countries,” the letter said.
Meanwhile, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, the GOP candidate for governor, criticized the governor for shifting stances on the quarantine.
“What we’re getting is a governor who’s winging it, changing the policy all the time,” Astorino said while campaigning in New Rochelle. “It’s very confusing, and it could lead to health risks for many people.”
Over several downstate stops and media appearances, Astorino reiterated his support for a travel and flight ban from the Ebola-stricken nations of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, in which travelers intending to come to the U.S. would be quarantined in those West African nations for 21 days.
In addition, Astorino argued that Cuomo went from opposing quarantines to imposing a highly restrictive 21-day quarantine on Friday to moderating it on Sunday to allow quarantines to be served at home.
For his part, Cuomo defended his Ebola stance during a campaign stop in Mineola, telling reporters that while a quarantine is a more stringent policy than what the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends, it makes sense in a dense urban environment such as New York City’s.
“I disagree with the CDC, and at the end of the day, I am the governor of the state of New York, and my number one job is to protect the people of the state of New York and do what I think is prudent to protect the people from the state of New York,” Cuomo said.
The governor also disputed Astorino’s claim that his Ebola policy is frequently changing.
“The policy that we outlined on Friday is the policy that I detailed yesterday,” he said. “It’s the same policy.”
What’s more, it’s an entirely reasonable policy, Cuomo said.
“I’m asking those people who were in contact with infected people: Stay at home for 21 days. We will pay,” he said. “Enjoy your family, enjoy your friends, read a book – read my book. You don’t have to read my book, but stay at home for 21 days.” Cuomo was referring to his new book “All Things Possible: Setbacks and Success in Politics and Life,” which as of Monday ranked 97,514th on Amazon’s Kindle best seller’s list.