Kaci Hickox, the Maine nurse who was forced into Ebola quarantine in New Jersey last week after treating patients in West Africa, despite testing negative for the disease, said she would not comply with Maine officials’ instructions to isolate herself for another 21 days in her hometown of Fort Kent.
"You know I truly believe that this policy [the quarantine] is not scientifically or constitutionally just," Hickox told the Today Show on Wednesday. "I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public."
Hickox agreed to stay indoors for two days after she arrived back in Maine, but not beyond that, her laywers told the Bangor Daily News.
"The conditions that the state of Maine is now requiring Kaci to comply with are unconstitutional and illegal and there is no justification for the state of Maine to infringe on her liberty," said New York civil rights lawyer Norman Siegel.
Maine Governor Paul LePage, a Republican who is seeking legal authority to force Hickox into isolation, said on Wednesday that the quarantine—and the state police parked outside of her home to monitor her whereabouts—are "for both her protection and the health of the community."
But Hickox disagreed. "I will go to court to attain my freedom," she told Good Morning America on Wednesday via Skype. "I have been completely asymptomatic since I've been here. I feel absolutely great."
Hickox added that forced quarantine adds to unwarranted panic and fear.
"I remain really concerned by these mandatory quarantine policies for aid workers," Hickox said on Wednesday. "I think we're just only adding to the stigmatization that, again, is not based on science or evidence."
Hickox returned to the U.S. last Friday after treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone with Doctors Without Borders (MSF). She was quarantined in an outdoor tent over the weekend after landing on Friday at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, despite showing no symptoms, and returned home to Fort Kent, Maine on Monday.
On Tuesday, the Maine Department of Health and Human Services announced that it would ask Ebola health workers returning from West Africa to put themselves in quarantine voluntarily—a move at odds with federal guidelines, which only recommend isolation for those who show symptoms.
Hickox is abiding by the daily monitoring standards put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). "She understands the nature of the disease— she treated it," her lawyer Steve Hyman told Bangor Daily News. "She understands the nature of the risk."
Ebola does not become contagious until symptoms appear, the CDC says. Even if symptoms are present, transmission of the disease requires contact with bodily fluids such as blood and vomit.
The New England Journal of Medicine on Monday also criticized mandatory quarantines for Ebola health care workers.
"This approach … is not scientifically based, is unfair and unwise, and will impede essential efforts to stop these awful outbreaks of Ebola disease at their source, which is the only satisfactory goal," the Journal said. "The governors’ action is like driving a carpet tack with a sledgehammer: it gets the job done but overall is more destructive than beneficial."