Maine nurse, who state officials asked to observe Ebola quarantine, left home on bike Thursday

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(CNN) — Maine nurse Kaci Hickox — whom state officials have asked to observe a quarantine until an Ebola incubation period has passed — and her boyfriend left a Fort Kent home on bicycles Thursday morning.

Two police vehicles that had been parked outside the home followed them.

Is it fear or facts?

That question is at the heart of the standoff between nurse Kaci Hickox and officials in Maine who want to keep her isolated in her home because she recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

“The worst thing would be is if she steps out of her house in the next hour and they try to put handcuffs on her,” Hickox’s lawyer Norm Siegel said on CNN on Thursday.

The outspoken Hickox, who has twice tested negative for Ebola and says she has no symptoms of the deadly virus, has said she doesn’t plan to stick to the state’s rules and remain isolated. She’s repeatedly said that she feels her civil liberties have been compromised by the forced quarantine and that Maine’s policy ignores medical facts about Ebola.

Instead, she said, she will self-monitor for symptoms, action that reflects Doctors Without Borders’ guidance. That’s the organization she volunteered to work for in Sierra Leone, a highly reputable group that has been treating Ebola sufferers for decades.

On Thursday morning, Hickox’s attorneys plan to talk with state authorities to find a resolution. State troopers are parked outside the home where Hickox has been staying in Fort Kent, a town of 4,000 near Maine’s northern border.

“If we’re going to have a disagreement, let’s have the disagreement in a court of law, not in the streets of Maine.”

Siegel said Maine authorities must obtain a court order before they can arrest his client if she breaks quarantine. Once that order is secured, her legal team has three days to challenge it.

CNN asked Siegel is Hickox intends to go to work Thursday.

“I would hope the government officials in Maine have a reasonable, open mind about what’s going on and let’s not have an exacerbation of the tensions that already exist,” the attorney said.

Maine’s side

Maine Health Commissioner Mary Mayhew said late Wednesday afternoon that the process has already begun to file a court order. Mayhew cited concerns about Hickox’s hands-on role in dealing with Ebola patients, as well as “concerns about the lack of reliability and the lack of trustworthiness in the information that has been received.”

“You need to be able to have trust and credibility in that information,” she said. “That makes her a higher risk.”

Mayhew also blasted what she called “the lack of leadership at the federal level” that has created “a patchwork quilt of state-by-state determinations,” vowing that “we will not stand by and exacerbate the situation in Maine.”

Mayhew said that officials have been “pleading for common sense, for an appreciation for the risks that exist.” She pointed to other states such as New Jersey, New York and Illinois that have implemented 21-day quarantines for health care workers returning from West Africa, over objections from some medical professionals and federal officials.

The health commissioner said she “did not understand” why Hickox is challenging what she calls a “common-sense approach” of staying home for three weeks. (That amount of time is significant because it may take that long between when a person gets Ebola and shows signs of it; furthermore, Ebola spreads only via bodily fluids, not through the air.)

“(This is) a reasonable request to ensure — out of an abundance of caution — that we are protecting the people of this state,” Mayhew said.

Yet Hickox says she thinks the U.S. Constitution and science are on her side.

On Wednesday night, Hickox emerged from the home where she has been staying. She reiterated that she is healthy and free of any Ebola symptoms.

She said she is willing to compromise with the state. Hickox is open to travel restrictions, like barring her from public transportation and limiting her to the Fort Kent area.

“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.”

Having to defend herself and not being able to hug her friends, especially after four tough weeks in West Africa, are “painful (and) emotionally draining,” the nurse said. Hickox also said “it’s frustrating to hear nasty things,” saying her intention in going to Sierra Leone was to make “a difference in people’s lives,” and her aim now that she’s back is not “to put anyone at risk in this community.”

Obama champions Ebola caregivers

While he didn’t mention Hickox’s case specifically, President Barack Obama on Wednesday did speak to — and in support of — health care workers like her who have risked their lives and livelihoods by going to West Africa to help those in need. He characterized them as “heroes” who “deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

He also criticized those championing policies such as quarantines and travel bans, saying that America should firstly be praising, encouraging and supporting health care workers critical to curbing the Ebola epidemic rather than antagonizing them.

“When I hear people talking about American leadership and then are promoting policies that would avoid leadership and have us running in the opposite direction and hiding under the covers, it makes me a little frustrated,” Obama said.

The President and numerous infectious disease experts have stressed the importance of stopping Ebola at its source to combat further spread of the virus to the rest of the world.

The World Health Organization reported Wednesday that there are more than 13,700 confirmed or suspected cases of Ebola, almost all in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The United Nations’ health authority projected about 5,000 deaths from the virus.

And those are only the ones that authorities have been able to count. In a region where health care access and record-keeping are limited, the WHO says the death toll may be especially undercounted. Some ill people who are seen by physicians and counted as Ebola cases may not stay for treatment and die of the disease, and the record-keepers won’t know to record their deaths.

The WHO has said that the mortality rate from the current outbreak, starting with the first death in December, is roughly 60% to 70%.

CNN’s Greg Botelho and Jason Hanna contributed to this report.

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