Showdown Imminent Over Quarantine 10/30 06:16
State police plan to monitor the movements and interactions of a nurse who
vowed to defy the state's quarantine for health care workers who treat Ebola
patients, but troopers cannot take her into custody without a judge's
FORT KENT, Maine (AP) -- State police plan to monitor the movements and
interactions of a nurse who vowed to defy the state's quarantine for health
care workers who treat Ebola patients, but troopers cannot take her into
custody without a judge's permission.
State officials were seeking a court order to detain Kaci Hickox for the
remainder of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola that ends on Nov. 10.
Hickox contends there's no need for quarantine because she's showing no
symptoms, and she made her point by stepping outside her home briefly Wednesday
night to talk to reporters, even shaking one reporter's hand. Police watched
from across the street.
"There's a lot of misinformation about how Ebola is transmitted, and I can
understand why people are frightened. But their fear is not based on medical
facts," Norman Siegel, one of her attorneys, said Wednesday as a showdown
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 the Newark airport from three West African countries. Hickox spent
the weekend in a tent in New Jersey before traveling to the home she shares
with her boyfriend, a nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
"I'm not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it's
not science-based," she told reporters Wednesday evening.
Generally, states have broad authority when it comes to such matters. But
Maine health officials could have a tough time convincing a judge that Hickox
poses a threat, said attorney Jackie L. Caynon III, who specializes in health
law in Worcester, Massachusetts.
"If somebody isn't showing signs of the infection, then it's kind of hard to
say someone should be under mandatory quarantine," he said.
Ebola, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an
infected person, has killed thousands of people in Africa, but only four people
have been diagnosed with it in the United States. People can't be infected just
by being near someone who's sick, and people aren't contagious unless they're
sick, health officials say.
Guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
recommend daily monitoring for health care workers like Hickox who have come
into contact with Ebola patients. But some states like Maine are going above
and beyond those guidelines.
The defense department is going even further. On Wednesday, Defense
Secretary Chuck Hagel ordered military men and women helping fight Ebola to
undergo 21-day quarantines that start upon their return --- instead of their
last exposure to an Ebola patient.
President Barack Obama warned that overly restrictive measures imposed upon
returning health care workers could discourage them from volunteering in Africa.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage, who canceled campaign events to keep tabs on the
situation, maintained that the state must be "vigilant" to protect others.
State law allows a judge to grant temporary custody of someone if health
officials demonstrate "a clear and immediate public health threat."
The state's court filing was expected late Wednesday or early Thursday,
officials said. If a judge grants the state request, then Hickox will appeal
the decision on constitutional grounds, necessitating a hearing, Siegel said.
Siegel said the nurse hopes her fight against the quarantine will help bring
an end to misinformation about how the Ebola virus is transmitted.
"She wants to have her voice in the debate about how America handles the
Ebola crisis. She has an important voice and perspective," he said.