Maine state police were stationed outside the home of Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox Wednesday as Gov. Paul LePage said he was seeking legal authority to force the “unwilling” health workers to remain quarantined for 21 days.
The 33-year-old nurse, who has shown no symptoms of the deadly virus, arrived in Maine on Monday after being forcibly held in an isolation tent in New Jersey for three days under that state’s strict new law for health workers who have recently treated Ebola patients in West Africa.
Over Hickox’s objections, Maine health officials insisted that she stay in her home in Fort Kent for 21 days until the incubation period for Ebola had passed.
“I don’t plan on sticking to the guidelines,” Hickox tells TODAY’s Matt Lauer. “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.”
Maine Gov. Paul LePage, however, said Wednesday that Hickox has been “unwilling” to follow state protocols and that he will seek legal authority to enforce the quarantine.
The governor’s office said state police were stationed outside her home “for both her protection and the health of the community.”
“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,” LePage said in a statement on the governor’s website.
“We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community,” he said. “We are exploring all of our options for protecting the health and well-being of the healthcare worker, anyone who comes in contact with her, the Fort Kent community and all of Maine. While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state.”
Hickox, according to her attorney, had only agreed to remain home for two days after traveling from New Jersey on Monday.
The nurse for Doctors Without Borders was the first person pulled aside at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday under new state regulations after her return from Sierra Leone, where she was working with Ebola patients.
After speaking out publicly, Hickox was allowed to leave for Maine, where health officials have said they expect her to agree to be quarantined for a 21-day period, The Bangor Daily News reports.
Hickox said she believes the quarantine policy is “not scientifically nor constitutionally just.”
She tells TODAY she will pursue legal action if Maine forces her into continued isolation.
“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,” she says.
Her attorney, Steven Hyman, told CNN Wednesday that his client had received no mandatory orders and that “the next step is up to Maine.”
“The only reason that there is a cry for quarantine is because the political side has decided that it would just be better if she stayed home and lost her civil right so we could all feel more comfortable, which is not supported by any medical evidence,” Hyman said.
Without naming Hickox specifically, Department of Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew said Tuesday evening that the state has the authority to seek a court order to compel quarantine for individuals deemed a public health risk.
“We have made the determination that out of an abundance of caution, this is a reasonable, common-sense approach to remove additional risk and guard against a public health crisis in Maine,” said Mayhew, WLBZ-TV reports. She did not mention Hickox by name.
Hickox’s high-profile campaign from isolation in New Jersey, including a first-person account in The Dallas Morning News, underscored the shifting response to the Ebola crisis by state and federal authorities.
On Friday, New York Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a plan of mandatory quarantine for health workers back from Africa who’d been exposed to Ebola but showed no symptoms.
It was in part a reaction to the case of Craig Spencer, a New York City physician who tested positive for Ebola, but acknowledged he had left his apartment and moved around the city just before experiencing Ebola symptoms.
Saying they couldn’t rely on voluntary self-reporting, the governors pronounced themselves resolved to err on the side of caution and monitor people like Spencer under confinement. Cuomo, however, quickly eased those rules, allowing such health workers to self-quarantine at home.
The White House also weighed in, saying it had conveyed concerns to the governors of New York and New Jersey that their stringent quarantine policies were “not grounded in science” and would hamper efforts to recruit volunteers to fight the epidemic in Africa. Christie said he had not heard from the White House before the plan was announced.
After the uproar in New Jersey, Hickox was allowed to leave on Monday, but Christie insisted that it did not represent a change of policy.
“I didn’t reverse any decision,” he said Tuesday. “She hadn’t had any symptoms for 24 hours. And she tested negative for Ebola. So there was no reason to keep her. The reason she was put into the hospital in the first place was because she was running a high fever and was symptomatic.”
“If people are symptomatic they go into the hospital,” Christie said. “If they live in New Jersey, they get quarantined at home. If they don’t, and they’re not symptomatic, then we set up quarantine for them out of state. But if they are symptomatic, they’re going to the hospital.”
Hickox told The Dallas Morning News that her brief fever spike, recorded by a forehead scanner at the airport, was the result of being flushed and angry over her confinement and that an oral temperature reading at the same time showed her to be normal.
The State Department has quietly made plans to bring Ebola-infected doctors and medical aides to the U.S. for treatment, according to an internal department document that argued the only way to get other countries to send medical teams to West Africa is to promise that the U.S. will be the world’s medical backstop.
Some countries “are implicitly or explicitly waiting for medevac assurances” before they will agree to send their own medical teams to join U.S. and U.N. aid workers on the ground, the State Department argues in the undated four-page memo, which was reviewed by The Washington Times.
“The United States needs to show leadership and act as we are asking others to act by admitting certain non-citizens into the country for medical treatment for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) during the Ebola crisis,” says the four-page memo, which lists as its author Robert Sorenson, deputy director of the office of international health and biodefense.
More than 10,000 people have become infected with Ebola in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, and the U.S. has taken a lead role in arguing that the outbreak must be stopped in West Africa. President Obama has committed thousands of U.S. troops and has deployed American medical personnel, but other countries have been slow to follow.
In the memo, officials say their preference is for patients go to Europe, but there are some cases in which the U.S. is “the logical treatment destination for non-citizens.”
The document has been shared with Congress, where lawmakers already are nervous about the administration’s handling of the Ebola outbreak. The memo even details the expected price per patient, with transportation costs at $200,000 and treatment at $300,000.
A State Department official signaled Tuesday evening that the discussions had been shelved.
“There is no policy of the U.S. government to allow entry of non-U.S. citizen Ebola-infected to the United States. There is no consideration in the State Department of changing that policy,” the official said.
Another official said the department is considering using American aircraft equipped to handle Ebola cases to transport noncitizens to other countries.
“We have discussed allowing other countries to use our medevac capabilities to evacuate their own citizens to their home countries or third-countries, subject to reimbursement and availability,” the second department official said.
The internal State Department memo is described as “sensitive but unclassified.” A tracking sheet attached to it says it was cleared by offices of the deputy secretary, the deputy secretary for management, the office of Central African affairs and the medical services office.
A call to the number listed for Mr. Sorenson wasn’t returned Tuesday.
Mr. Obama has been clear about his desire to recruit medical and aid workers to fight Ebola in Africa.
“We know that the best way to protect Americans ultimately is going to stop this outbreak at the source,” the president said at the White House on Tuesday, praising U.S. aid workers who are already involved in the effort. “No other nation is doing as much to make sure that we contain and ultimately eliminate this outbreak than America.”
About half of the more than 10,000 cases in West Africa have been fatal.
Four cases have been diagnosed in the U.S., and three of those were health care workers treating infected patients. Two of those, both nurses at a Dallas hospital, have been cured.
Several American aid workers who contracted the disease overseas were flown to the U.S. for treatment.
The United Nations and World Health Organization are also heavily involved in deploying to the affected region, but other countries have been slower to provide resources to fight Ebola in West Africa or to agree to treat workers who contract the disease.
The State Department memo says only Germany has agreed to take non-German citizens who contract Ebola.
European nations are closer to West Africa, making transport easier, the State Department memo said.
Officials said the U.S. is the right place to treat some cases, notably those in which non-Americans are contracted to work in West Africa for U.S.-based charities, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the U.S. Agency for International Development.
“So far all of the Ebola medevacs brought back to U.S. hospitals have been U.S. citizens. But there are many non-citizens working for U.S. government agencies and organizations in the Ebola-affected countries of West Africa,” the memo says. “Many of them are citizens of countries lacking adequate medical care, and if they contracted Ebola in the course of their work they would need to be evacuated to medical facilities in the United States or Europe.”
The memo says the State Department has a contract with Phoenix Aviation, which maintains an airplane capable of transporting an Ebola patient. The U.S. can transport noncitizens and have other countries or organizations pay the cost.
The U.S. has helped transport three health care workers to Germany and one to France.
In the U.S., the department memo lists three hospitals – the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, the University of Nebraska Medical Center and Emory University Hospital in Atlanta – that are willing to take Ebola patients.
According to the memo, Homeland Security Department officials would be required to waive legal restrictions to speed the transport of patients into the U.S.
“A pre-established framework would be essential to guarantee that only authorized individuals would be considered for travel authorization and that all necessary vetting would occur,” the memo says.
A Homeland Security spokeswoman didn’t return emails seeking comment.
Judicial Watch, a conservative-leaning public interest watchdog, revealed the existence of a State Department plan this month. When The Times described the document to Tom Fitton, Judicial Watch’s president, he said it is evidence of why the administration balked at adopting a travel ban on those from affected countries.
“Under this theory, there could be people moving here now, transporting people here now, and it could be done with no warning,” Mr. Fitton said. “If our borders mean anything, it is the ability to make sure that dire threats to the public health are kept out.”
After those initial reports surfaced, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, Virginia Republican, sent a letter asking for answers. On Tuesday, he said the document The Times obtained “raises more concerns and questions than answers.”
“President Obama should be forthcoming with the American people about the scope of his plan to bring non-U.S. citizens infected with Ebola to the United States for treatment,” Mr. Goodlatte said in a statement.
The city’s first Ebola patient initially lied to authorities about his travels around the city following his return from treating disease victims in Africa, law-enforcement sources said.
Dr. Craig Spencer at first told officials that he isolated himself in his Harlem apartment – and didn’t admit he rode the subways, dined out and went bowling until cops looked at his MetroCard the sources said.
“He told the authorities that he self-quarantined. Detectives then reviewed his credit-card statement and MetroCard and found that he went over here, over there, up and down and all around,” a source said.
Spencer finally ’fessed up when a cop “got on the phone and had to relay questions to him through the Health Department,” a source said.
Officials then retraced Spencer’s steps, which included dining at The Meatball Shop in Greenwich Village and bowling at The Gutter in Brooklyn.
The investigator who led Homeland Security’s internal review of how the 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal was handled has himself quit after he was reportedly spotted with a hooker.
Sheriff’s deputies in Broward County, Florida saw David Nieland entering and leaving a building that was under surveillance in a different prostitution investigation, officials told the New York Times.
Authorities later interviewed the prostitute and she identified a photograph of Nieland and said he had paid her for sex, the officials said.
Nieland resigned in August after he refused to answer questions from the Department of Homeland Security about the incident. A DHS spokesperson said they became aware of the incident in May.
Nieland has not been charged. Facebook posts suggest he is a married father.
It is not the first twist in the tale that has featured Nieland.
The investigator, who was the head of the inspector general’s Miami office, had been called in to review the 2012 investigation. Following the scandal, nine agents left the agency after it emerged that they had prostitutes in their rooms while in Cartagena, Colombia for a visit by President Obama.
But after the probe, it emerged that Nieland told congressional staffers that he had been pressured to cover up the fact that a White House volunteer also had a prostitute in his room.
Earlier this month, the volunteer was named as Jonathan Dach, 28, by the Washington Post. At the time, he was just 25 and a Yale University law student, but he now works for the State Department in the Secretary’s Office of Global Women’s Issues.
Nieland said he had been asked to delete the derogatory information from the 65-page public report, which was issued in September 2012, because it was potentially damaging to the administration just two months before the November election.
He said that when he and his colleagues questioned how the investigation was being handled, they were placed on administrative leave and removed from the report’s chain of command.
The congressional staffers said that no evidence supported his allegation and the volunteer was never charged. The White House also said it had not intervened in the report’s preparation.
Nieland has said that the prostitution allegation ‘is not true’ and declined to answer any questions, the New York Times reported.
He resigned on August 9, citing health problems, and later sent a tweet that his government career had ended. In August, he also thanked people on Twitter for their support about his ‘retirement’.
A Homeland Security Department spokesman, William O. Hillburg, confirmed to the Times that Nieland had resigned and that officials had become aware of an incident in Florida that involved one of its employees. Under law, no comment could be offered on a specific case, Hillburg said.
Thirteen Secret Service agents and officers were implicated in a prostitution scandal that arose from preparations for Obama’s trip in April 2012 to the seaside resort of Cartagena.
They were accused of carousing with female foreign nationals at a hotel where they were staying before Obama’s arrival. Nine of the officers and agents eventually left the agency – resigned, forced out or retired.