The Ebola outbreak, which has spread to the United States by way of a man in Dallas, is likely to test the power of the government to force us to stay inside our homes.
The man’s girlfriend and her family are under armed guard, the Associated Press reports. Texas ordered them to stay in their home and not have any visitors.
The unusual confinement order was imposed after the family failed to comply with a request not to leave their apartment, according to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins.
Texas State Health Commissioner David Lakey said the order would help ensure the four can be closely watched, including checking them for fevers over the next three weeks.
“We didn’t have the confidence we would have been able to monitor them the way that we needed to,” he said.
The family will not be allowed to receive visitors, officials said.
The case has raised questions about whether a disease that has killed 3,300 people in West Africa could spread in the United States. U.S. health officials say they remain confident they can keep it in check.
This should be interesting. If an armed guard was necessary to get people to comply with a “request,” was it really a request?
According to the Guardian, the family has to clean up the apartment — including acquiring new bedding — but isn’t being allowed outside to do it.
Earlier, a representative of one of the agencies who issued the control order said that arranging clean bedding was the responsibility of the family – despite the ban on them leaving their home. “
The individuals, it’s up to them … to care for the household,” Erikka Neroes of Dallas County health and human services told the Guardian. “Our science tells us, according to CDC, that Ebola virus germs can be killed with soap and water … Dallas County has not been involved in a disinfection process.”
In Arizona, meanwhile, a family has voluntarily quarantined itself for three weeks after the father traveled to Liberia, KTAR reports.
Related: How to Help in Efforts to Stem Ebola’s Tide (NY Times).