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Quarantined Nurse Released in New Jersey, Heading for Maine

By David Porter, The Associated Press

NEWARK, N.J.  - A nurse who worked in West Africa with Ebola patients was released Monday afternoon after being quarantined through the weekend in an isolation tent at a New Jersey hospital.

Hickox had been symptom-free for 24 hours and was being taken to Maine, where she lives, the state Health Department said in a statement Monday. She left University Hospital in Newark around 1:20 p.m. in a private vehicle, according to hospital spokeswoman Stacie Newton.

A statement released by the office of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said health officials in Maine had been notified of her arrival and that they could decide on her treatment and monitoring from there. Maine's protocols require her to be quarantined in her home in Fort Kent for 21 days after the last possible exposure to the disease.

Hickox complained about her treatment in New Jersey after she became the first person forced into the state's mandatory quarantine, announced Friday by Christie for people arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport from three West African countries.

"We are pleased that the state of New Jersey has decided to release Kaci. They had no justification to confine her,'' said Norman Siegel, the prominent New York civil rights attorney Hickox hired while she was quarantined. He said that she has not ruled out legal action.

"We are figuring out how to amplify Kaci's voice on this issue,'' Siegel said. "We have to figure out if that is through the courts of law or through the court of public opinion.''

Speaking at a campaign event for Florida Gov. Rick Scott in Wellington, Florida, on Monday morning, Christie said when Hickox "has time to reflect, she'll understand'' the quarantine and that he is happy to send her home.

Maine Gov. Paul R. LePage said that the state will work with health care workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa to establish in-home quarantine protocols.

Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo jointly announced the quarantine policy on Friday. But over the weekend, the Obama administration condemned the mandatory quarantines. Late Sunday night, Cuomo and Christie stressed separately that the policies allowed for home confinement for medical workers who have had contact with Ebola patients if the workers show no symptoms.

Under New Jersey's protocol, state residents who had come into contact with someone with Ebola would be subject to a mandatory 21-day quarantine at home, even if they had no symptoms. Non-residents who landed in the state would be taken home if feasible or otherwise quarantined in New Jersey.

In a telephone interview Saturday with CNN, Hickox said she did not initially have a shower, flushable toilet, television or reading material in the special tent she was in at University Hospital in Newark.

Hickox did not immediately return a phone call or email seeking comment from The Associated Press.

Christie said Monday that his priority is protecting the health of people in his state.

"I understand that she didn't want to be there, she made that very clear from the beginning,'' Christie said. "But my obligation is to all the people of New Jersey and we're just going to continue to do that.''

Associated Press writer Matt Sedensky in Florida contributed to this report.