DURHAM — A local state representative confirmed she is currently under quarantine at her home for two weeks to assure she has not been exposed to Covid-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that has reached the United States.
Rep. Judith Spang, D-Durham, said she has absolutely no symptoms, nor do her sister and husband who traveled with her.
“I returned on Monday from Italy,” Spang said. “We were in Rome, where no cases of this coronavirus have been reported. We landed in Newark, New Jersey, and we were not tested or monitored. My sister would not have known to self-quarantine if I hadn’t told her.”
Spang said she went to he Statehouse Monday, the same day she returned, for a breakfast meeting. She had a coughing spell she said was caused by food.
“I have problems with swallowing pineapple,” Spang said. “Another member of the House reported my coughing to (House Speaker Steve Shurtleff). A nurse at the Statehouse called me and asked about my health and travel. Since Italy is listed as code 3 travel by the CDC, I am quarantined to my home for 14 days. The next 14 days are a time when we are supposed vote on every bill before us, and now I will not be there.”
Spang said she has done some research and feels no one has definitive information to decide who should be quarantined.
“I think there are massive holes in the safety net,” she said.
In an email, Spang informed town officials, including Durham Town Administrator Todd Selig, of her quarantine. She also questioned the need for it.
“We just returned from a vacation in Italy to find ourselves in a quarantine situation,” she wrote. “It has been very difficult to understand what the CDC means when they say quarantine is recommended. We were well outside the affected areas of Italy and have no symptoms. It has been tempting to go about our lives under the assumption that the recommended quarantine for people traveling in northern Italy should not rationally apply to us.”
Spang said she called the state of New Hampshire, read the CDC website and called her doctor.
“We can’t even learn whether it’s safe to donate clothes and books we’re culling from the house,” Spang said. “Should the dog be kept from contact with other dogs? My sister also traveled with us and knew nothing about being quarantined. The 200 people on our flight went blissfully on their way. Should she, and they, be carrying on as usual, while we are trying to be responsibly quarantined? It’s a very flawed situation and no good will come of it.”
Spang said she understands officials and doctors, having limited information, can only advise extreme caution.
“But, given that the quarantine is voluntary, should it be up to individuals to balance an exaggerated sense of civic responsibility with the need to go to work?” Spang said in her email. “I’m in the N.H. House and we’re voting on a very large proportion of our bills these two weeks. We are willingly complying with the quarantine to be careful, but it’s crazy.”
Spang said she thinks there is a need for more specific public policy.
“With a near-total lack of medical science about this virus, what should public policy be,” she asked. “Should other people who cannot afford to miss work for two weeks be quarantined based on sketchy science? Given the many holes in the net that allow potentially infected people to be at large, what is reasonable? Even doctors don’t know what to say to asymptomatic travelers. It’s a real conundrum.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are 99 cases of Covid-19 nationally, including two confirmed in New Hampshire. There have been 11 deaths in the U.S.