Updated Oct. 24, 2014
NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Significantly expanding their vigilance, federal health officials said Wednesday that they would begin monitoring all travelers, even Americans, who come to the U.S. from Ebola-stricken West African nations for 21 days.
The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the program will begin Monday, Oct. 27 and cover visitors as well as aid workers, journalists and other Americans returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.
The program will start in six states: New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey and Georgia.
“This is another step to protect families, communities and health care workers from Ebola,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said.
Travelers from those countries will be given information cards and a thermometer and be required to make daily check-ins with state or local health officials to report their status.
Frieden said the check-ins could be in person, by telephone, Skype or Facetime or through employers. CDC was consulting with the state and local officials to help them work that out.
The travelers would be required to report any travel plans. Frieden said if they don’t cooperate, they would be immediately called in.
The announcement came as a new rule went into effect Wednesday that said air travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea must enter the U.S. through one of five airports doing special screenings and fever checks for Ebola.
A handful of people had been arriving at other airports and missing the checks.
A total of 562 air travelers have been checked in the screenings that started Oct. 11 at John F. Kennedy airport and expanded to Newark Liberty, Chicago’s O’Hare, Washington’s Dulles and Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson last week, Homeland Security officials said.
Four were taken from Washington’s Dulles airport to a local hospital. None had Ebola.
On Tuesday, a West African passenger at Newark airport was hospitalized after reporting symptoms or having a potential exposure to Ebola.
Gov. Chris Christie said Wednesday that there is no indication that the patient has the virus and he anticipates the patient will be released from the hospital after he is interviewed by the Centers for Disease Control.
“CDC is going to have a technical assistance team visit each one of these institutions to help them in preparing and drilling and being ready,” N.J. Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd said.
The president of the nurses’ union says based on the handling of the Newark passenger at University Hospital, the specialized training can’t come soon enough.
“They immediately isolated the patient to another building so the general public was not ever at risk. Our concern was whether or not they had provided the training for the caregivers,” Ann Twomey said.
The Obama administration has been under increasing pressure from lawmakers and the public to ban travel from the three hardest-hit West African nations. President Barack Obama says such a ban could make the situation in those countries worse and make it harder for foreign doctors and aid workers to bring the outbreak under control.
There are no direct flights from the three nations into the U.S.; about 150 fliers per day arrive by various multi-leg routes. About 6 percent of them were coming through airports that don’t have the new Ebola screening, federal officials said.