Court Showdown Looms as Ebola Nurse Vows to Fight Quarantine
FORT KENT, Maine - Kaci Hickox, the nurse now famous for being held in quarantine in a tent in New Jersey, is back at her home in Fort Kent. Hickox recently spent a month treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, and her return is prompting a potential legal showdown over public safety and civil rights. Hickox says she won't comply with state requirements to isolate herself from the public for 21 days.
When Kaci Hickox was released early from her mandatory quarantine on Monday, she was expected to return to her home in Fort Kent. But Hickox wasn't seen at her house until Wednesday, when she spoke on the Today show via Skype. Hickox remained defiant against state protocols to isolate herself at home, calling the policy not scientifically or constitutionally just.
"I'm not just going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and be forced to sit in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," Hickox said. "We know that if I develop symptoms I would isolate in my house and would call the health department and would arrange to be safely transported and tested in a facility that was prepared to safely do those things for me."
Hickox also spoke on ABC News' "Good Morning America" program Wednesday.
Maine's Center for Disease Control issued new Ebola protocols on Monday in anticipation of Hickox's arrival. The protocols go beyond federal CDC guidelines because they require individuals who have treated Ebola patients to self-quarantine for 21 days from their last exposure to the virus, even if they don't currently have symptoms.
At an impromptu news conference outside his office Wednesday, Gov. Paul LePage said he hoped Hickox would comply voluntarily. "She's abiding right now and she has threatened or she said she is not going to abide any longer, so we are preparing documents to go ask a judge to help us out," LePage said.
LePage said he's concerned about the 21-day incubation period for Ebola and wants to protect public health. "That's all," he said. "And if the court says not to worry, hey, don't worry."
It's unclear what legal action the state can take. Maine's Office of the Attorney General issued a statement Wednesday saying only that the office is advising the Maine Center for Disease Control on the legal avenues available.
Kaci Hickox's lawyer, Norman Siegel, also appeared on the Today show Wednesday, where he said he and his client will fight any legal action. "If they decide to go to court to get a court order and physically apprehend her, we will challenge it," Siegel said. "They have absolutely no justification to quarantine Kaci. And if necessary, we'll fight to obtain her freedom."
Hickox's situation has garnered so much attention that Bishop Robert Deeley of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Portland weighed in with a written statement, calling on Maine residents to balance the desire to protect themselves with the obligation to treat Hickox with the compassion she displayed in West Africa.
There was no word from Hickox Wednesday at the house she lives in with her boyfriend in Fort Kent. Cars from various media outlets lined the street, and no one responded to knocks on the door. A state trooper is parked outside to monitor safety and movement. So far, the only person who has visited the home is a health worker, who was not identified.