Obama OK with different quarantine policies for military, health workers

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Story highlights

  • Obama criticized governors who are imposing quarantines for health workers
  • But he said the military, which has imposed similar quarantines, is 'a different situation'
  • New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie questioned the difference Tuesday
President Barack Obama took veiled shots at governors who are mandating quarantines for health workers returning to the United States after treating Ebola patients Tuesday.
But the military -- where the Army has already imposed similar quarantines -- is "a different situation," Obama said Tuesday.
Without mentioning them by name, Obama criticized New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and others for the quarantines they've imposed for health workers, saying they "aren't based on science and best practices" and calling them "another barrier on somebody who's already doing really important work on our behalf."
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Christie: 'No regrets' over quarantine
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States take Ebola crisis into their hands
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Christie, though, pointed to the discrepancy between how health workers and military members are being treated as he defended himself in an NBC interview Tuesday morning.
"Now six other states have joined us as well, both Republican and Democratic governors. As has the United States military," Christie said.
Obama, though, said he has no problem with members of the military facing different policies than the general public because their service in West Africa, at the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak, isn't voluntary.
"It's part of their mission that's been assigned to them by their commanders and ultimately by me, the commander-in-chief," he told reporters on the White House's South Lawn on Tuesday.
"So we don't expect to have similar rules for our military as we do for civilians," Obama said. "They are already, by definition, if they're in the military under more circumscribed conditions."
Meanwhile, the Pentagon is preparing to announce new policies on whether military members returning from Ebola-related assignments will be monitored or have their travel restricted.
Jessica L. Wright, the undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, issued an Oct. 10 memo that said troops who have faced an elevated risk of exposure to Ebola will be quarantined for 21 days -- and that those who haven't faced any known exposure will be monitored for three weeks. Since then, the Army has announced quarantines for all members who return from West Africa.
A Pentagon spokeswoman said Tuesday that Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel is reviewing the Army's move and "will have a decision soon" on whether it will be extended to other branches of the military.