Records requests filed with the Governor’s Office and NJ Department of Health Seeking Policies and Documents Used to Develop Ebola Protocols in NJ
The ACLU-NJ filed Open Public Records Act requests today with the Office of the Governor (PDF) and state Department of Health (PDF) seeking the details of policies pertaining to quarantine protocols for the Ebola virus.
The request follows Gov. Chris Christie’s announcement Friday of a mandatory quarantine policy and the recent detention of an American health care worker on her way home from West Africa. The request also stresses that the disturbing constitutional implications of quarantines for people exhibiting no symptoms -- as happened to Kaci Hickox, a nurse from Maine who was quarantined at Newark Liberty International Airport after working with Ebola patients in Sierra Leone -- compound the urgency of this request.
“Our government not only has a responsibility to keep the public safe, but also to keep the public informed,” said ACLU-NJ Executive Director Udi Ofer. “It is essential that the state of New Jersey be as clear and transparent as possible about the scientific information and health policy thinking that is being relied upon to formulate protocols and policies, especially when the public policy is as drastic as a 21-day quarantine. The public needs to be reassured that these policy decisions are being guided by science, not fear.”
Since the quarantine of Hickox on Friday, Oct. 24, the Governor’s policy, announced in tandem with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo at a news conference, has come under scrutiny, including from the ACLU. Governor Christie has said New Jersey will now detain all health care workers returning from West Africa who have cared for Ebola patients. The vague details surrounding the policies have made it imperative for the public to understand the specific regulations authorizing the governor to detain people.
“New Jerseyans have a right to know what decisions are being made and that the decisions are supported by sound medical judgment,” said ACLU-NJ Senior Staff Attorney Alexander Shalom. “Without a review of regulations, policies and protocols, it is impossible to know that what the government is doing is both medically necessary and no more restrictive than it needs to be.”
The OPRA request also asks that the matter be given priority.
“Given the tremendous public interest in these issues, I ask that you prioritize this request and provide the documents as soon as possible,” the ACLU-NJ’s request said. The Open Public Records Act mandates that a state agency must provide a response within seven business days.