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White House concerned about state-imposed Ebola quarantines

Jeff Hulbert of Annapolis, Maryland, holds up a sign in front of the White House on October 24, 2014 in Washington, D.C.

Mark Wilson, Getty Images

Last Updated Oct 27, 2014 12:53 AM EDT

The administration is concerned about the mandatory quarantines put in place by New York, New Jersey and Illinois for people returning from West Africa who are determined to be at high risk of having the Ebola virus, White House sources tell CBS News Senior White House Correspondent Bill Plante.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced the new policy at a press conference Friday afternoon a day after a doctor who had recently returned to New York from fighting Ebola in West Africa was confirmed to have contracted the virus. Illinois announced a similar policy a short time later.

A senior administration official told CBS News that the White House has not yet put forward an official view that the states should reverse their decision after the New York Times reported they were pressuring the two governors to do so.

On Sunday night, Cuomo announced revised guidelines that brought the state closer to the federal protocols.

The administration is working on new guidelines for returning healthcare workers, which officials expect to have in a few days, Plante reports.

Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said on CBS' "Face the Nation" Sunday that a blanket quarantine could have "negative consequences" by discouraging health care workers from traveling to the region help treat and combat the disease.

"The best way to protect Americans is to stop the epidemic in Africa, and we need those healthcare workers to do that. So to put them in a position where when they come back that no matter what they're automatically under quarantine can actually have unintended consequences and that's the reason we're concerned about that," Fauci said.

A White House official said there was a meeting at the White House Sunday to discuss a nationwide policy for health care workers returning from West Africa. The administration is working on new guidelines for these workers, and will want New York and New Jersey to adopt them when they come out, sources said.

The first person to be quarantined under the new policy, nurse Kaci Hickox, who is currently in an isolation unit in a Newark hospital, has hired a well-known civil rights attorney to challenge her detention, saying she has been made to feel like a criminal.

CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook spoke to Hickox, and said in an interview on CBS' "Face the Nation" that chief among her concern and that of others is the seeming ad-hoc way in which these quarantines have been implemented.

"When you're talking about doing the quarantine it seems like audibles are being called, it's being done on the fly," LaPook said. "This is something that has to be thought out."

Hickox told LaPook some evidence of this comes from the fact that her isolation room has no shower and only a simple porta-potty with minimal privacy, that she was for a time given only cold scrubs to wear, and all this despite that fact that she tested negatively initially.

Hickox tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation. Hospital officials would not say whether she would remain in the hospital for the entire 21-day, state-ordered quarantine period or be moved to another location.