Gov. Scott signs executive order mandating Ebola screening for anyone returning from impacted areas

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In an effort to ensure Florida does not become next on the list of states with confirmed cases of Ebola, Governor Rick Scott has issued an executive order mandating anyone returning to Florida from African nations affected by the virus outbreak to be monitored twice daily for 21-days.

“We have asked the CDC to identify the risk levels of all returning individuals from these areas, but they have not provided that information,” Scott wrote in a statement. “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 [Department of Health] personnel.”

The Florida Department of Health used a CDC database to determine which, if any, individuals traveled to and returned from the impacted nations in West Africa.

The affected areas include Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone. The Department of Defense currently requires military personnel to undergo similar precautions when returning to the U.S. from an Ebola-stricken nation.

“I want to be clear that we are taking this aggressive action at the state level out of an abundance of caution in the absence of much-needed Ebola risk classification information from the CDC,” Scott said.

The move comes after Dr. Craig Spencer returned to New York before exhibiting symptoms of the virus a few days later last week. Because Spencer was not monitored or quarantined, he came into contact with three people even after symptoms surfaced. Ebola cannot be transmitted from one person to another until symptoms appear. There is a 21-day window in which those symptoms would appear if an individual is affected.

“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,” Scott continued in his statement Saturday. “Mandatory twice-daily health monitoring will help us obtain important information that will assist us in caring for the Floridians who are returning to our state and preventing any spread of this deadly disease if one of these individuals ever develops possible Ebola symptoms within 21 days of their return. 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.”

There have so far been four documented cases of Ebola in the United States. The first was in Dallas, Texas and led to the infection of two healthcare workers at that hospital. Spencer is the fourth case and is currently undergoing treatment.

A recent St. Leo University poll showed that 46 percent of respondents feared someone they know may contract Ebola.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.