Maine health officials are prepared to "pursue legal authority" to enforce a quarantine Tuesday as reports surfaced that Kaci Hickox, a nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone and shows no symptoms of the virus, doesn't intend to obey the quarantine.
"We do not want to have to legally enforce in-home quarantine," Mary Mayhew, commissioner of the state Health and Human Services Department, said at a news conference. She wouldn't comment on Hickox's case specifically, but Hickox's attorney told the Bangor Daily News that his client — who was quarantined against her will in New Jersey upon her return to the U.S. — "doesn't want to agree to continue to be confined to a residence" beyond two days.
Hickox spent the weekend in an isolation tent at a Newark hospital after she flew back from West Africa, even though she tested negative for the virus. She was released Monday and drove back to Maine after she threatened to sue.
"We're confident that selfless health workers who were brave enough to care for Ebola patients in a foreign country will be willing to take reasonable steps to protect residents of their own country," Mayhew said Tuesday. "However, we are willing to pursue legal authority if necessary to ensure risk is minimized for Mainers."
Robin Pinette, a resident of Fort Kent, Maine, where Hickox had originally planned to self-quarantine at her boyfriend's apartment, told NBC station WLBZ of Bangor that the situation is "completely terrifying."
"I feel bad for Kaci, because I know that it's got to be hard feeling ostracized somewhat," Pinette said. "But we're dealing with the whole community, not just one person here."
- New Jersey Releases Nurse Quarantined for Suspected Ebola
- Obama: U.S. Health Workers Who Go to Africa Doing 'God's Work'