FORT KENT, Maine – A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa vowed on Wednesday to end her voluntary quarantine, even going so far as to step out of her home and shake a reporter’s hand, signaling a showdown with state police monitoring her and state officials seeking to legally enforce her confinement.
Kaci Hickox broke her quarantine by leaving her home with her boyfriend and speaking briefly to reporters in her driveway Wednesday evening. State and local police could only watch from across the street because a judge hadn’t signed off on a court order sought by state health officials.
She reiterated that she planned to fight the state’s quarantine and said there was no need to stay inside because she’s not exhibiting any symptoms.
“I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based,” she said.
One of her lawyers, Norman Siegel, said she isn’t willing to cooperate further unless the state lifts “all or most of the restrictions.” But state officials continued to assert that she should remain in isolation until Nov. 10, the end of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola.
A judge would have to grant the state’s request in what could serve as a test as to the legality of state quarantines during the Ebola scare.
Until an order is signed by a judge, state police will monitor Hickox’s movement and interactions if she leaves her home but can’t physically detain her, said Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew.
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 by being near someone who’s sick, and people aren’t contagious unless they’re sick, officials say.
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 of her boyfriend, a nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.
Also Wednesday, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Wednesday that the military men and women helping fight Ebola in West Africa must undergo 21-day quarantines. Pentagon officials said it was too early to know exactly how the quarantine will work. Hagel said he directed the Joint Chiefs
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