Hickox, who volunteered in Africa 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: Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Hickox was made to spend last weekend in a quarantine tent, which she described as inhumane, although she never showed Ebola symptoms and tested negative in a preliminary evaluation. Maine officials have asked Hickox to quarantine herself at home until 21 days after her last possible contact with an Ebola patient, and if she refuses, they say they will make it involuntary.
New York, New Jersey Impose Quarantine, then Shift Policy
On Friday, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced a plan of mandatory quarantine for healthcare workers who had been exposed to Ebola in West Africa, but who did not show symptoms.
Their action was prompted by the case of Dr. Craig Spencer, a New York City physician also with Doctors Without Borders who now has Ebola. Spencer left his apartment and spent time on mass transit and in other parts of the city prior to showing Ebola symptoms.
Cuomo quickly changed those rules to permit self-quarantine at home, while Christie, who allowed Hickox to leave the forced quarantine on Monday, said his decision was not a policy change.
Appearing on NBC’s Today show and ABC’s Good Morning America from Fort Kent, where her boyfriend is a senior nursing student, Hickox said that thus far, she has followed Maine’s voluntary quarantine. She had no contact with any human on Tuesday, and does not plan to have human contact with anyone today. State police are reportedly stationed outside her home.
‘‘I don’t plan on sticking to the guidelines,’’ Hickox said on the Today show. ‘’I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me even though I am in perfectly good health.’’
Hickox’s lawyer told the Associated Press that Hickox isn’t willing to cooperate further unless the state lifts ‘‘all or most of the restrictions.’’
Maine Governor Says Health Workers Should Comply with Protocols
Governor Paul R. LePage issued a statement Wednesday morning on his website, saying, “We commend all healthcare workers for their humanitarian work in West Africa and other regions in the world, and we are proud that Americans are always ready to help others. However, the healthcare worker who is in Fort Kent has been unwilling to follow the protocols set forth by the Maine CDC and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for medical workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients.
“We hoped that the healthcare 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 … 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.”
Troops Returning from Ebola Missions to Be Placed in Isolation
Meanwhile, in a separate development, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced today that all U.S. troops who come back from Ebola response missions in West Africa will be kept in supervised isolation for 21 days. The announcement came one day after the White House expressed concerns about states imposing strict quarantines of healthcare workers returning from West Africa.
The isolation policy will be reviewed in 45 days.