|U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the U.S. response to Ebola from the South Lawn of the White House in Washington October 28, 2014. CREDIT: REUTERS/KEVIN LAMARQUE|
As the second of two nurses infected while treating an Ebola patient left an Atlanta hospital, President Barack Obama on Tuesday said policies adopted in the United States should not discourage Americans willing to fight West Africa's outbreak.
Obama weighed in for the first time since states including New York and New Jersey imposed automatic 21-day quarantines on doctors and nurses returning from the three countries at the heart of the outbreak - rules that go beyond federal guidelines.
"We don't want to discourage our healthcare workers from going to the front lines and dealing with this in an effective way," Obama told reporters at the White House South Lawn.
Obama said that these medical workers, often volunteers for international humanitarian groups, should be "applauded, thanked and supported."
"And we can make sure that when they come back, they are being monitored in a prudent fashion. But we want to make sure that we understand that they are doing God's work over there. And they're doing that to keep us safe," Obama added.
Some states have imposed their own safeguards, including mandatory quarantines for doctors and nurses returning from the three countries at the center of the epidemic, saying federal policies do not adequately protect the public. Some lawmakers, particularly Republicans, have criticized the response by Obama's administration as inept.
Federal health officials and others have criticized stricter state measures as potentially counterproductive, saying they could deter American doctors and other healthcare professionals from volunteering to help fight the epidemic at its source in West Africa.
"We don't want to do things that aren't based on science and best practices because if we do then we're just putting another barrier on somebody who's already doing really important work on our behalf," Obama said, noting that containing the outbreak in Africa will make Americans safer from Ebola.
The first person quarantined under New Jersey's policy was Kaci Hickox, a nurse who tested negative for the virus but was isolated for days in a tent at a Newark hospital. She said her "basic human rights" were violated.
In another sign of how Ebola fears have affected many communities, a father sued a Connecticut elementary school on Tuesday, saying his daughter was discriminated against and banned from school based on irrational fears of Ebola because she attended a wedding in Nigeria.