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Nurse, state in quarantine standoff

Nurse Kaci Hickox leaves her home on a rural road in Fort Kent, Maine, to take a bike ride on Thursday. (Associated Press)
Nurse Kaci Hickox leaves her home on a rural road in Fort Kent, Maine, to take a bike ride on Thursday. (Associated Press)
Robert F. Bukaty Associated Press

FORT KENT, Maine – Insisting she is perfectly healthy, nurse Kaci Hickox again defied the state’s Ebola quarantine Thursday by taking a bike ride with her boyfriend, and Maine health authorities struggled to reach a compromise that would limit her contact with others.

Hickox, 33, stepped out of her home on the remote northern edge of Maine for the second day in a row, practically daring authorities to make good on their threat to go to court to have her confined against her will. On Wednesday evening, she went outside for an impromptu news conference and shook a reporter’s outstretched hand.

By evening, it was unclear whether the state had gone to court or whether there had been any progress toward ending the standoff that has become the nation’s most closely watched clash between personal freedom and fear of Ebola. The governor’s office and Hickox’s lawyers would not comment.

Hickox, who returned to the U.S. last week from treating Ebola victims in West Africa as a volunteer with Doctors Without Borders, has been under what Maine is calling a voluntary quarantine at her home in this town of 4,300 people.

She has rebelled against the restrictions, saying that her rights are being violated and that she is no threat to others because she has no symptoms. She tested negative last weekend for Ebola, though it can take days for the virus to reach detectable levels.

Her 21-day quarantine – the incubation period for the Ebola virus – is scheduled to end on Nov. 10.

Gov. Paul LePage said state attorneys and Hickox’s lawyers had discussed a scaled-down quarantine that would have allowed her to go for walks, runs and bicycle rides while preventing her from venturing into populated public places or coming within 3 feet of others.

Around midday, however, LePage said that the hours of negotiations had gone nowhere, and that he was prepared to use the full extent of his authority to protect the public.

Hickox stepped into the media glare when she returned from Sierra Leone to become subject to a mandatory quarantine in New Jersey. After an uproar, she was released and traveled more than 600 miles to the small town on the Canadian border where she lives with her boyfriend.

She said she is following the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of daily monitoring for fever and other signs of the disease.

An unmarked state police cruiser followed Hickox on her hourlong morning bike ride on trails near her home, but police could not take action to detain her without a court order signed by a judge.

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