Ebola Fear: Nurse in Maine defies home quarantine, goes for bike ride; state mulls legal action
(CNN) — In the tense standoff between a Maine nurse and state officials, it was a surreal scene.
Nurse Kaci Hickox, who recently returned to the United States after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, went on a bike ride with her boyfriend Thursday — followed by a police cruiser and a throng of journalists watching their every move.
Her lawyer called the ride “a good way to exercise her right.” Hickox told reporters she “just wanted to enjoy this beautiful day.”
Hours later, Maine Gov. Paul LePage said negotiations with Hickox over where she could go had failed, adding that he would “exercise the full extent of his authority allowable by law” to keep her away from public places.
“I don’t want her within three feet of anybody,” LePage told CNN affiliate WCSH.
“Right now she can come out of the house if she wants, but we can’t protect her when she does that. The reason there’s a police car there when she does that is to protect her more than anybody. ‘Cause the last thing I want is for her to get hurt,” LePage said. “But at the same token, her behavior is really riling a lot of people up, and I can only do what I can do. And we’re trying to protect her, but she’s not acting as smart as she probably should.”
The state has made it clear it’s going to do something. But what?
State officials have previously said they want the nurse — who has twice tested negative for Ebola and says she feels healthy — to avoid public places such as stores for 21 days. That’s the deadly virus’ incubation period. She’s about halfway there; that period, in her case, is set to end the second week in November.
“I’m just asking her to be reasonable,” LePage told WCSH. “Let’s get to November 10, and then you can do whatever you would like.”
Attorney: Nurse was making a point with bike ride
Hickox has said it’s state officials who aren’t being reasonable. She contends the U.S. Constitution and science are on her side.
On Wednesday, she emerged from the home where she has been staying and said she was willing to compromise with the state.
She said she was open to travel restrictions, such as barring her from public transportation and limiting her to Fort Kent, a town of 4,000 on the Canadian border.
“So I think there are things that, I know, work,” she said. “And I know all aid workers are willing to do those things. But I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based.”
What could be next?
When she returned from a month working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone last week, Hickox had a temperature at an airport in Newark, New Jersey, officials said. She was put into an isolation tent.
She blasted New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for enforcing a new policy that required anyone who was showing symptoms of Ebola, including an elevated temperature, to be isolated.
Since returning to Maine, she has said in numerous interviews that she feels healthy.
State troopers have been parked outside Hickox’s boyfriend’s home.
On Wednesday, Gov. LePage said that Hickox “has been unwilling to follow the protocols set forth by the Maine Center for Disease Control & Prevention and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for medical workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients.”
The statement didn’t say which protocols she was resisting but added that LePage is seeking legal authority to enforce a quarantine.
Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said Wednesday that the process to file a court order had already begun.