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Cuomo defends Ebola quarantine policy, seeks more doctor volunteers

On the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Governor

On the second anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, Governor Andrew Cuomo visits the Oakwood Beach neighborhood of Staten Island that sustained heavy damage and greets residents there. Wednesday, Oct., 29, 2014. Credit: Linda Rosier

Even as he continued to defend his Ebola quarantine policy, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo Wednesday said he was looking for ways to encourage more health care workers to go to West Africa to fight the outbreak.

"I'm asking the hospitals: You tell me what package I need to put together to encourage medical workers to go and to do it," he said at a superstorm Sandy-related event on Staten Island. "Doctors and nurses want to make sure that their jobs are protected when they get back."

Cuomo said the state will convene a "mini-conference" with hospitals and health care organizations. He envisioned drafting protections similar to those given military reservists, who go on active duty and "can't be hurt in their current jobs."

"We all . . . understand that the battle is in West Africa. I just don't think you need to sacrifice public health here to have public health in West Africa," the governor said, referring to his controversial 21-day quarantine policy for returning health care workers and others exposed to Ebola.

Asked about President Barack Obama's implicit criticism of New York and New Jersey's policies -- which go beyond recommendations by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- Cuomo said: "If he's critical of the quarantine, then he has to be highly critical of the Army's policy."

The U.S. Department of Defense announced Wednesday that it was imposing a 21-day quarantine for all military personnel returning from Ebola relief efforts in West Africa.

Among other developments, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and the city Department of Health and Mental Hygiene denied a report by the New York Post that Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer initially lied to officials about his travels around the city before he alerted Doctors Without Borders that he had developed a fever.

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Spencer, 33, of West Harlem has been in isolation at Bellevue Hospital Center for the past week after his return from Guinea on Oct. 17. His condition remained serious but stable Wednesday, de Blasio said.

The mayor said the doctor has "cooperated in every way. He followed every protocol of his organization."

The health department agreed. "Dr. Spencer cooperated fully with the Health Department to establish a timeline of his movements in the days following his return to New York from Guinea, providing his MetroCard, credit cards and cellphone," the agency said in a statement.

De Blasio said he wasn't aware of any other suspected Ebola cases in the city -- "thank God."

With Anthony M. DeStefano and Emily Ngo

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