Ms. Viscusi is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker who spent a month working with Ebola patients in Liberia during the crisis as a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders. When she returned to D.C., she agreed to report her temperature twice a day to the Department of Health (it remained consistently below 98ºF.), to report any symptoms immediately, and to comply with appropriate medical protocols in the event that she developed any symptoms. But the Department of Health pressed her to sign a form agreeing to “isolate” herself in her home voluntarily until 21 days after her last contact, “in lieu of forced quarantine.” 

She contacted us and we agreed to represent her. We wrote to the Department of Health and the Attorney General’s Office, pointing out that Ebola can be transmitted only when a person with the disease is actively symptomatic, and even then only by contact with bodily fluids, and that while Ms. Viscusi had had direct contact with Ebola patients, she had been wearing appropriate personal protective equipment at all times. We also noted that while Ms. Viscusi’s D.C. job as a social worker does not involve invasive medical procedures, she did not intend to see clients until 21 days after her last contact with Ebola patients. She did, however, plan to go about her ordinary daily activities, which posed no risk to anyone, including her friends and neighbors, who had the good sense not to be afraid of seeing her.

The Department of Health responded, emphasizing its duty to protect the health of all D.C. residents, but took no further action until the 21 days had passed. Ms. Viscusi remained healthy.  

Date filed

October 1, 2014