New York — Some 100 activists rallied here outside Bellevue Hospital in a protest organized by the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power on Oct. 30. The theme was “ACT-UP against Ebola.”
Demonstrators showed solidarity with people worldwide who have the Ebola Virus Disease. They strongly opposed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s order to automatically quarantine anyone who has been in direct contact with Ebola patients in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Instead of spreading panic and misinformation, protesters called upon these officials to support the countries fighting this virulent disease.
On Oct. 24, the two governors announced their new policy mandating that anyone who arrived from the three Western African nations at Kennedy and Newark international airports would be automatically quarantined for 21 days if they had been near Ebola sufferers. This included health care workers who provided medical treatment in the region. Due to public pressure, Gov. Cuomo modified his policy to allow at-home quarantine on Oct. 25.
Annette Gaudino, member of ACT-UP, said, “Governor Cuomo should be supporting New York State health care workers who go to West Africa to fight the disease, rather than spreading misinformation about transmission risks by mandating quarantines.” (actupny.com, Oct. 30)
Speaker Dr. Howard Grossman is recognized globally as one of the best and most knowledgeable primary care physicians treating HIV and AIDS today. Grossman replied to a question at the rally about Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer, who was hospitalized Oct. 23 at Bellevue, and about the nurses who are treating him. He noted that a New York Times article on Oct. 29 said that Bellevue health care workers are being disinvited to parties and some of their children are being told not to come to school. “I thank ACT-UP for coming here supporting health care workers,” he stressed.
ACT-UP presented a get-well card to Dr. Spencer, who had recently returned from providing medical care to Ebola-stricken patients in Sierra Leone. The message read, “We love you! Get well!”
After the rally, demonstrators marched up the East Side to Gov. Cuomo’s office. They included members of Health Global Access Project (Health GAP) and the International Action Center.
Chants included, “Fight Ebola, not doctors!” The rally chairperson added a chant for nurse Kaci Hickox, “Nurses are not criminals!” Hickox had been involuntarily quarantined in a tent after arriving at New Jersey’s Newark airport after caring for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone.
Civil liberties attorneys obtained Hickox’s release, and she returned to her home in Maine. She then won a legal challenge to Maine’s mandated quarantine and emphasized that policies for returning health care workers must be based on science, not politics.