Senator Chuck Grassley

Senator Chuck Grassley

Saying he’s “scared to death of Ebola,” Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley admits he doesn’t understand all of the fuss over quarantining health care workers who return to the U.S. from Africa. It should be simple, he says: Those who have been exposed should be quarantined until it’s determined they’re not infected and not a risk.

Grassley, an 81-year-old Republican from New Hartford, says maybe it’s just a generational gap. “I remember being quarantined in our farmhouse,” Grassley says. “Somebody would come around and put up a sign saying you’ve got measles, you’ve got whooping cough.”

That’s just how it had to be done decades ago to prevent dangerous diseases from spreading, and in many ways, Grassley says little has changed in how to handle the unknown. “We were quarantined within our home,” Grassley says. “I don’t know what the big deal is about quarantine besides under the 10th Amendment, states have the responsibility for maintaining the public health and safety of its citizens.”

A nurse from Maine returned from Ebola duty in West Africa late last week and was forced into a quarantine in New Jersey. She threatened to sue over her treatment and was released on Monday. There is disagreement over how long Ebola may take to appear in someone who’s infected, be it five days or 21 days.

Grassley says Congress may be called to take action and address the outbreak, which has killed nearly 5,000 people, mostly in Africa. “If there is a reason to look at this whole issue at the federal level, I’m willing to do it because I’m scared to death of Ebola,” Grassley says. “Maybe I don’t mean that in the personal sense that I’m worried right here being in the state of Iowa or even in Washington D.C. to worry about it, but we have to worry about the health of the nation.”

Several members of Congress have called for lawmakers to return to Washington in an emergency session to address various concerns over Ebola, but it hasn’t happened. Congress is scheduled to return from recess on November 12th, more than a week after next Tuesday’s elections.