McAuliffe announces Ebola travel policy
Governor Terry McAuliffe announced that starting today, Monday, October 27, the Virginia Department of Health will actively monitor the health of all travelers arriving from the countries of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, which are battling an unprecedented Ebola outbreak. This effort will build on extensive outreach and monitoring already underway by the state health department and the local health districts.
“Today the Commonwealth of Virginia will begin to actively monitor incoming travelers from countries battling the Ebola outbreak so that public health officials can respond quickly in the event of an Ebola case in our state,”said Governor McAuliffe. “This plan will strengthen our ability to protect Virginians from Ebola, and increase our readiness to respond promptly in the event that we have a case of the disease in our state. “
Under the plan, screeners at the airports of entry will continue to provide the names and contact information for all travelers from the affected countries with destinations in Virginia. Now, however, the Virginia Department of Health will work through their local health districts to make contact with these travelers and provide them with specific guidance, information, and telephone numbers for 24/7 assistance. All travelers will be asked to take and record their temperature at least twice per day.
Local health districts will coordinate daily contact with the travelers during the 21 days when there is a low risk of infection. Should a traveler need medical attention, advance direction will be given to the emergency management system for transport, and to the local hospital receiving the traveler for evaluation. Virginia’s public health laboratory is available 24 hours a day for Ebola testing.
Should a traveler develop any concerning symptoms, but an initial medical evaluation is negative, the traveler may be asked to remain at home for the remainder of the 21 days with close monitoring.
“This additional monitoring provides another level of protection from Ebola for the people of Virginia. The plan connects each traveler with our professional staff at Virginia’s local health departments who know their community and can assure that the travelers will have the support, guidance and prompt clinical attention if needed. Because we will be able to assess the risk of each traveler, we will be better able to determine when a legal order of quarantine is necessary,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Marissa J. Levine.
The policy includes specific provisions for health care workers who are returning from caring for Ebola patients. All health care workers will sign agreements for restrictions in activity, recognizing that the state will check on compliance and reserves the right to issue a quarantine order if needed. These restrictions are based on the best scientific evidence about transmission of the virus, and will be tailored to the known risks for each health care worker. Specifically:
- Those health care workers with known breaches of protective protocol will be required to stay at home for the 21-day period.
- Other health care workers will be evaluated on a case by case basis and may be restricted from public transportation, mass gatherings, and clinical care.
“This thoughtful and evidence-based process will protect our citizens in a manner consistent with our current laws and the current threat,” said Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Dr. William Hazel.
In response to today’s announcement, John Duval, CEO of MCV Hospitals, VCU Health System said, “The VCU Health System fully supports this measured, risk-based approach given that it is based upon the best evidence available and addresses the actual public health risks to the Commonwealth. VCU Health System, along with hospitals across the Commonwealth, stands ready to support the Virginia Department of Health in meeting the public health needs of our health care workers and citizens.”
Pamela Sutton-Wallce, CEO of the University of Virginia Medical Center added, “I believe this prudent approach balances the public health needs of the Commonwealth with the needs of each citizen. The University of Virginia Medical Center is prepared to respond to any immediate or future health threats and will work with the Commonwealth to protect each and every citizen.”
Governor McAuliffe and Virginia’s public health officials worked closely with their counterparts in Maryland and the District of Columbia to ensure that all three jurisdictions are executing active monitoring policies that are compatible.
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