FORT KENT, Maine — A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa said that she plans to stop quarantining herself in her home in rural Maine, signaling 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 Oct. 28-29. But she said she will defy the state if the policy isn’t changed by Oct. 30.
“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’s shown no symptoms of Ebola, isn’t willing to cooperate further unless the state lifts “all or most of the restrictions.” The Governor said 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 Gov. Paul LePage, who canceled 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 Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were sharply criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines as Hickox spent the weekend in a tent. Now in Maine, Hickox arrived Oct. 28 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.
Across the country, litigation seems unavoidable as health officials grapple with how to manage public health concerns once Ebola reached the U.S.
Some states, including Maine, are going above and beyond guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend only regular monitoring — not quarantine — for health care workers who have come into contact with Ebola patients.
LePage commended all health care workers who have volunteered in Africa to treat Ebola patients and said he had hoped Hickox would voluntarily comply with Maine’s restrictions.
“While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state,” he said.
Norman Siegel, one of Hickox’s lawyers, said he remained hopeful the state will ease its restrictions. If not, then the state would have to go to court, and he would challenge the state’s action.
“Our position is very simple. There’s no justification for the state of Maine to quarantine her. She has no symptoms and therefore she’s not contagious. And she’s not at a risk to the public or the health and welfare of people in the state of Maine,” he said.
The leader of Maine’s Roman Catholics weighed in on the fight, urging calm and reason and lauding Hickox’s bravery.
“We need to balance our desire to protect ourselves and those we love with the obligation to treat Ms. Hickox with the same compassion and support that she displayed in West Africa, rather than with fear and rejection,” Bishop Robert F. Deeley said.