Kaci Hickox, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders who recently returned to the U.S. after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, spoke out strongly Wednesday against her home state of Maine for requiring her to quarantine.
“I don’t plan on sticking to the guidelines. I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me, even though I am in perfectly good health and feeling strong and have been this entire time completely symptom free,” Hickox said in an interview on “TODAY.”
“If the restrictions placed on me by the state of Maine are not lifted by Thursday morning, I will go to court to fight for my freedom,” Hickox added.
The state of Maine, meanwhile, was pursuing its own legal action to ensure Hickox quarantines for the required 21 days.
Hickox, 33, has been fighting quarantine measures since she returned to the U.S. last Friday. As officials feud over the proper protocols to address Ebola cases in the U.S. – with some governors up for reelection instituting mandatory quarantine orders against health officials’ and experts’ recommendations – Hickox has become a public face of the policy.
Hickox was first quarantined last weekend after flying into Newark, N.J. She was housed in a tent outside University Hospital in Newark, and Gov. Chris Christie declared her “obviously ill.” Hickox has refuted the claim. After 24 hours of being asymptomatic, she was transferred to Maine, where officials said she’d be forced into an in-home quarantine. A state trooper was positioned outside her home in an unmarked car.
“I truly believe this policy is not scientifically nor constitutionally just, and so I am not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public,” Hickox told “TODAY” host Matt Lauer.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel signed an order Wednesday mandating that troops working to combat Ebola in West Africa will be subject to a 21-day quarantine when they return, too, meaning that thousands will be subject to the quarantine when they return from their deployments.
“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,” Maine Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement earlier Wednesday. “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.”
Hickox—and some health experts—have argued that mandatory quarantines could deter the volunteer workers badly needed in West Africa from joining the fight.
“I sat alone in the isolation tent and thought of many colleagues who will return home to America and face the same ordeal. Will they be made to feel like criminals and prisoners?” Hickox wrote over the weekend in an op-ed in The Dallas Morning News, describing her New Jersey quarantine. “We need more health care workers to help fight the epidemic in West Africa. The U.S. must treat returning health care workers with dignity and humanity.”
Doctors Without Borders “strongly disagrees with blanket forced quarantine for health care workers returning from Ebola affected countries. Such a measure is not based upon established medical science,” the group said in a statement on Wednesday. “Quarantine will only undermine efforts to curb the epidemic at its source in West Africa.”
Hickox’s lawyer told reporters that she would “most likely” not leave her home Wednesday and suggested that LePage was quarantining his client for political reasons, as he’s up for reelection on Tuesday.