Army will quarantine all U.S. troops coming home from Ebola zone

U.S. Army Spc. Kristal Calderon, information technology support specialist, 35th Signal Brigade (Theater Tactical), practices carefully donning and removing Personal Protective Equipment and mask before being tested after a PPE class instructed by a mobile training team comprised of a biological officer and environmental safety specialist from the United States Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases Safety Office, at the brigade's logistical warehouse, Fort Gordon, Ga., Oct. 16, 2014. The training is mandatory for all 175 soldiers of the 35th TTSB scheduled to head to Liberia, Africa, in late October, where they will add their communications equipment and expertise to the fight against the Ebola virus disease outbreak in West Africa. (U.S. Army photo by Capt. Lindsay D. Roman, 35th Signal Brigade (Theater Tactical) Public Affairs/Released)

It is unclear how President Obama stands when it comes to troops returning home from Ebola stricken West Africa and their need for quarantine.

According to FOX News, the U.S. Army has unilaterally imposed a quarantine policy on its troops and the Joint Chiefs of Staff are recommending the rest of the military follow their lead.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is considering the Joint Chief’s recommendation to impose a mandatory 21-day quarantine for all returning troops.  White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest stated that Hagel may decide to coordinate with the White House on the decision.

“We will let the Department of Defense make an announcement,” Earnest said when asked about the White House’s stance on the issue and how can it allow troops back on U.S. soil without a clear plan.  “We’re going to let science drive that process.”

As of yet, the Army is the only branch of the military to order that troops returning from West Africa undergo a 21-day isolation period, separated from family, friends and other service members.  The decision was made by Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno.

FOX News reported that currently a team consisting of 12 members, which includes Maj. Gen. Darryl A. Williams, are being held in quarantine at their base in Vicenza, Italy after a return trip from Liberia.

Earnest emphasized that the Defense Department’s policy for all military branches has not be finalized or implemented as of yet.  He did point out that the current struggle on quarantining health workers in New York and New Jersey was not the same as the debate over quarantining thousands of troops.

Besides the Army, the only military plan at this time is to only quarantine individuals who may have come in contact with an infected Ebola patient.

The Defense Department reiterated that military personnel should not be treating infected patients and are only assisting with logistics, creating a medical infrastructure for health care workers employed outside the Department of Defense.

As of late last week, 686 U.S. troops were in West Africa as part of the mission.  Hundreds more were to arrive over the weekend.  These personnel would be affected by any blanket quarantine order implemented by the Department of Defense.

On Sunday, the White House told FOX News that is was concerned about “unintended consequences” of a mandatory quarantine.  It informed the news source that the Obama administration is diligently working on developing new federal guidelines for returning health care workers exposed to Ebola.  They realize that there is a growing concern amongst Americans about a potential outbreak in the U.S.


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