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Nurse's Lawyers Promise Legal Challenge to Ebola Quarantine

Lawyers for a nurse quarantined in a New Jersey hospital over Ebola fear say she's not sick and they’ll sue to have her released.
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Lawyers for a nurse quarantined in a New Jersey hospital say they’ll sue to have her released in a constitutional challenge to state restrictions for health care workers returning to New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa.

Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel said Kaci Hickox, who was quarantined after arriving Friday at the Newark airport, shows no symptoms of being infected and should be released immediately. He and attorney Steven Hyman said the state attorney general’s office had cooperated in getting them access to Hickox.

Late Sunday, a spokesman for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued a statement saying that people who had come into contact with someone with Ebola overseas would be subject to a mandatory quarantine at home. It did not explain why Hickox was being held at the hospital, though it did say, "Non-residents would be transported to their homes if feasible and, if not, quarantined in New Jersey.”

Hyman told NBC News he wasn't sure what the statement meant for Hickox's release. "I think we're getting closer to it," he said.

He and Siegel, speaking earlier outside Newark University Hospital, where she is quarantined, said they spent 75 minutes with her on Sunday. They said she was being kept in a tented area on the hospital's first floor with a bed, folding table and little else — they said she was able to get a laptop computer with wi-fi access only Sunday. But they said she is not being treated.

“She is fine. She is not sick,” Hyman said. Photos they released showed her in hospital garb peering through a plastic window of the tented-off area.

After a doctor back from West Africa was diagnosed with the virus last week, Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered quarantines for all returning medical workers who had treated Ebola patients. On Sunday, Christie defended the actions but federal officials and health experts criticized such policies as counterproductive.

“We believe that the medical experts should be directing these policies, not the politicians,” Siegel said.

Late Sunday, Cuomo clarified details of New York's quarantines. He said anyone returning from overseas after contact with someone with Ebola would have to remain in their homes for 21 days, and health care workers would check on them twice a day for any symptoms. Cuomo said accommodations would be found for any who didn't have a place to stay.

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized the treatment of Hickox at the Newark airport, calling it an "interrogation" in which she was treated disrespectfully.

NBC News' Miranda Leitsinger contributed to this report.