FORT KENT — A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa said today that she planned to stop quarantining herself in her home in rural Maine, signalling a potential showdown with state police monitoring her movements and state officials preparing to legally enforce the quarantine.
Kaci Hickox told NBC’s Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America that she was abiding by the state’s voluntary quarantine by having no contact with people yesterday and today. But she said she would defy the state if the policy wasn’t changed by tomorrow.
“I don’t plan on sticking to the guidelines,” Hickox said on Today. “I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me, even though I am in perfectly good health.”
Her lawyer told The Associated Press that Hickox, who has shown no symptoms of Ebola, wasn’t willing to cooperate further unless the state lifted “all or most of the restrictions”. The governor said today he was seeking legal authority to keep her in isolation.
“We hoped that the health care worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols; but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols. We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community,” said Governor Paul LePage, who cancelled his campaign events to follow the developments.
Hickox, who volunteered in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders, was the first person forced into New Jersey’s mandatory quarantine for people arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport from three West African countries.
New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie and New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo were sharply criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines as Hickox spent the weekend in a tent. Now in Maine, Hickox arrived last night at the off-campus home of her boyfriend, who’s a senior nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
“I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public,” she said.
Fort Kent is in far northern Maine, across the river from Canada, and has 4,300 residents. About 1,000 students attend the university there.
Across the country, litigation seems unavoidable as health officials grapple with how to manage public health concerns once Ebola reached the United States.
Some states, including Maine, are going above and beyond guidelines from the federal Centres For Disease Control And Prevention, which recommend only regular monitoring –– not quarantine –– for health care workers who have come into contact with Ebola patients.