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Politics

Ebola Crisis: Health Workers Give Gov. Scott's Executive Order Thumbs-Up

October 25, 2014 - 6:00pm

Health professionals say Gov. Rick Scott's move Saturday to sign an executive order mandating twice-daily, 21-day health monitoring for people returning from CDC-designated areas affected by deadly Ebola is exactly the shoe that fits.

Florida needs to stay ahead of the crisis, they say, and Scott knows it.

"The governor has really taken a strong, decisive step to protect the safety, health and well-being of Florida citizens," emergency room attendant Carlos Juan Diaz of Coral Gables told Sunshine State News.

Florida is an international crossroads, a melting pot where most national airlines service passengers. While Florida does not have an Ebola case, the governor signed the order out of "an abundance of caution" and the lack of action from the Centers for Disease Control.

Scott said the monitoring will help the state Department of Health prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

His mandate for the DOH is patterned after the Department of Defenses post-deployment requirements for military men and women deployed in Ebola-affected areas.

In a written statement Saturday, Scott said, This executive order will give the Florida Department of Health the authority they need to conduct 21-day health monitoring and risk assessments for all those who have returned or will return to Florida from the CDC-designated Ebola-affected areas of Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.

"We have asked the CDC to identify the risk levels of all returning individuals from these areas, but they have not provided that information. Therefore, we are moving quickly to require the four individuals who have returned to Florida already and anyone in the future who will return to Florida from an Ebola area to take part in twice daily 21-day health evaluations with DOH personnel.

... We are using what information is available to our Department of Health through the CDCs Epi-X Web-based system, which monitors individuals who travel to areas with infectious diseases, including Ebola.

"Using this system, we know that four individuals have already returned to Florida after traveling to Ebola-affected areas. Following the news of Dr. Craig Spencer testing positive for Ebola in New York, DOH began working to identify anyone who has already returned to Florida after traveling to an Ebola area and is aggressively investigating how much risk these individuals pose for contracting the disease.

"We will take further action to protect the health of these individuals, and our communities, if we determine any of them are at a high risk of contracting the disease. Further action by the Florida Department of Health will include mandatory quarantine of anyone we suspect is at high risk of testing positive for Ebola due to the type of contact they had with the disease.

"... Again, we are glad we do not have a case of Ebola in Florida, but we will continue to do everything in our power to ensure we never do.

Said Fort Pierce registered nurse Carole Wendover, "We're grateful to the governor. Pray God, this terrible disease doesn't reach our people. But I'm so glad Florida is erring on the side of caution."

Members of National Nurses United, though they could not be reached Saturday, must appreciate Scott's attention to their plight. They made a public plea to their employers Friday in front of a Fort Lauderdale building, calling for standardized protective gear and processes at all South Florida hospitals.

Because theres no hospital here thats prepared for Ebola, Gillian Brown of National Nurses United told CBS News. We havent gotten hands-on effective training that we need to take care of any patient that walks into the ER. Thats what this is about.

Gov. Scotts full executive order is available here.

Reach Nancy Smith at nsmith@sunshinestatenews.com or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith

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