The bicycle rides may be over, at least for the time being, for nurse Kaci Hickox. After asking her to stay in quarantine at her home, Hickox defied the state of Maine, going out in public and going for a very public bike ride yesterday with her boyfriend — while being watched by state troopers and the media. Today, a court has placed a temporary order on Hickox that falls short of the full quarantine requested by the state, but still forbids Hickox from “public places”:
Maine health officials obtained a 24-hour court order restricting Kaci Hickox’s movement after the nurse repeatedly defied the state’s quarantine for medical workers who have treated Ebola patients.
A judge granted the order Thursday limiting Hickox’s travel, banning her from public places and requiring a 3-foot buffer until there’s a further decision Friday.
That’s just an opening move. The court indicated that they could take even more action today:
The state went to court Thursday, following through with a threat to try to isolate her until the 21-day incubation period for Ebola ends no Nov. 10. In court documents, the judge indicated further action was anticipated Friday.
Police remained outside her home Friday. Fort Kent Police Chief Tom Pelletier went inside the home briefly Friday morning and said afterward, “We just had a good conversation.” He said he was not there to arrest or detain her.
State troopers couldn’t detain Hickox yesterday, and probably still can’t if she goes for another bike ride like she did yesterday under the current order. However, any close contact spotted by state troopers could land her in detention whether she likes it or not, and it’s possible that the judge may go further today and agree to the request from the state to put her in quarantine.
State health officials can certainly tell the court that they tried to reach an accommodation with Hickox, to no avail. Governor Paul LePage said yesterday that he tried to reach a compromise with Hickox that would have allowed her to go out for walks and bicycle rides, but Hickox refused to negotiate. “She’s pushing my patience,” LePage told the media.
She may be pushing the patience of the Obama administration, too. Perhaps mindful that Americans overwhelmingly approve of quarantines for those who have been in contact with Ebola patients (and the quarantine that the Pentagon imposed on its own returning troops), the White House told the media yesterday that it “does not support” Hickox’s antics in Maine:
The White House said on Thursday that it did not support the decision by a nurse in Maine to flout the voluntary quarantine imposed upon her by state authorities concerned about her exposure to Ebola.
A spokesman for Barack Obama said that it was up to states to set their own public health rules, although he believed they should be guided by science.
They certainly don’t approve of anything that exposes their hypocrisy or sanctimonious scolding over the quarantine push just before adopting one themselves. Hickox is an embarrassing reminder of both, which is why, after initially sounding sympathetic toward Hickox, they now want to distance themselves from her. It’s been remarkable that they’ve defended her at all, given the predilection toward bad choices of those health-care professionals who have had previous exposure to Ebola. The risk of blowback has been high all along, and the White House seems to have belatedly caught up to it.
Update (AP): 10 more days and she’ll be out of the incubation period.
Maine officials cannot force a quarantine on a nurse who treated West African Ebola patients, a Maine judge ruled Friday.
District Court Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere rejected a court order drawn up by Maine health officials that would have required nurse Kaci Hickox to avoid public places and keep a three-foot buffer with other people until Nov. 10, when a 21-day incubation period for the virus will end.