Once portrayed in the press as the face of noble resistance to Gov. Chris Christie’s draconian policy of consigning health care workers who were potentially exposed to Ebola in West Africa to a mandatory quarantine, nurse Kaci Hickox is rapidly expending the media’s politically-motivated goodwill.
While it is fair to say that most members of the medical community believe that Hickox is not a threat to those around her – she has tested negative for the disease, reports that she is feeling fine, and would not be contagious at this stage even if she were infected – some medical professionals are not entirely positive that Ebola cannot be spread by asymptomatic individuals. It is out of an abundance of caution that a number of states, including Hickox’s home state of Maine, have requested that at-risk individuals abide by a voluntary in-home quarantine.
Hickox is not playing along. The media darling who threatened to sue the state of New Jersey for violating her constitutional rights is now insisting that she will not self-isolate. On Thursday, Hickox left her house for a bike ride with her boyfriend.
“Kaci Hickox and her boyfriend stepped out of their home Thursday morning and rode away on bicycles, followed by state police who were monitoring her movements and public interactions,” the Associated Press reported. “Police couldn’t detain her without a court order signed by a judge.”
Hickox contends there’s no need for quarantine because she’s showing no symptoms. She’s also tested negative for the deadly disease.
State officials were going to court in an effort to detain Hickox for the remainder of the 21-day incubation period for Ebola that ends on Nov. 10.
It was the second time Hickox broke quarantine. She left her home Wednesday evening briefly to speak to reporters, even shaking a hand that was offered to her.
The problem with Hickox’s behavior is not that she is putting the public at risk. Her actions are problematic because she is so flagrantly and contemptuously violating measures put in place by public officials in order to calm a nervous public.
Hickox has such faith in her own deductive powers that she does not believe precautionary measures like quarantining should apply to her or anyone else, and she may be right. But her disregard for consensus opinion is only likely to inspire a backlash and result in the imposition of even stricter quarantining measures.
On Thursday, a medical professional appeared on CNN where he lamented how Chris Christie had started a “dangerous trend” by imposing a quarantine on health care workers returning from West Africa. He lamented the fact that “public health decisions now made by lawmakers and politicians,” as though this is a new condition.
Hickox’s actions reveal why political professionals are entrusted by the public with the responsibility of crafting and implementing policy and illustrate why, in their infinite wisdom, the founders did not impose a technocratic counsel of clinicians on America. This nurse’s behavior exposes a lack of concern for political realities, even those with which she disagrees. Hickox wishes the public were more empirical. She believes that Americans and their elected representatives are reacting irrationally and she is a victim of their hysteria. Even if she has a point, by ignoring the will of the public she is behaving in a manner so self-obsessed and juvenile that it reflects poorly on her and the selfless members of her profession who devote their time and energies to containing the Ebola outbreak in Africa.
She is effectively daring her state’s authorities to rethink their quarantining policy. She might get her wish, but the outcome of this policy review is unlikely to be the one she desires.
Kaci Hickox thinks he is making a noble stand against injustice. In reality, she is only making things worse. A political professional can see that clearly, but it seems that a devotee of empiricism and science cannot.