FORT KENT, Me.—
Earlier this month, nurse Kaci Hickox, 33, served with Doctors without Borders in Sierra Leone to combat the Ebola epidemic. She returned to the U.S. on October 24, and was sent immediately to University Hospital in New Jersey to be tested for the virus. She was then sent to her home in Fort Kent on October 27. Last Thursday, she left her home to go on a one hour bike ride with her boyfriend despite the regulation’s 21 day quarantine.
“I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based,” Hickox said. She argues that there is no reason for her quarantine because she is not showing any symptoms of Ebola and two tests have yielded negative results.
Maine health commissioner Mary Mayhew issued a statement regarding the state filing a court order to require the nurse to abide by the 21 day quarantine. Mayhew cited concerns about Hickox’s hands-on role in treating Ebola patients and “concerns about the lack of reliability and the lack of trustworthiness in the information that has been received.”
Regarding what she would say to Hickox, Mayhew said, “We have been pleading for common sense, for an appreciation for the risks that exists.”
Mayhew explained that other states including New Jersey, New York and Illinois have implemented 21 day quarantines for health care workers returning from West Africa due to the fact that Ebola symptoms can take up to three weeks to develop.
Hickox justified leaving her house because the only way Ebola can be transmitted is through bodily fluids, and only if the person is showing symptoms.
“You could hug me. You could shake my hand. I would not give you Ebola,” Hickox said.
Norm Siegel, one of Hickox’s lawyers, said any measure restricting his client’s travel is “based on fear and on myth, not on medical fact.”
Police stationed officers outside Hickox’s house to monitor her in case she tried to leave, and local health officials check on her regularly. An unmarked police car followed her on her bike ride, but could not take action to detain her without a court order.
“The government can’t take away your liberty unless there’s some compelling basis for it,” Siegel said.
State officials planned to go to court last Thursday, October 30, to ensure HIckox remains confined in her home.