On Wednesday night, only hours after her comments fueled the heated quarantine debate, Ebola nurse Kaci Hickox promised a showdown with Maine: she walked out of her house, stood on her driveway, and met with the media. "I'm not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it's not science-based," she told reporters. And then she shook a journalist's hand.
At roughly 7pm Wednesday, Hickox — who was quarantined upon arrival in New Jersey last week, having come from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone with Doctors without Borders — defiantly stepped outside of her partner's house in Fort Kent. The move, though small, was symbolic: by walking out of her front door, she was clearly defying the boundaries of her quarantine — and emphasizing its absurdity.
She reminded reporters that "when someone is asymptomatic, there is no risk of their transmitting
infection," telling them she was self-monitoring and completely healthy. "You could hug me. You could shake my hand. I would not give you Ebola,"
Hickox said, apparently inspiring one British reporter to ask for a
handshake (they shook hands, and it was awesome).
Hickox also said she'd be willing to compromise with the state; that she'd not use public transport, for example. But she maintained that being imprisoned in her house was a violation of her civil liberties. She told reporters:
We have been in negotiations all day with the state of Maine and tried to resolve this amicably, but they are not allowing me to leave my house and interact with the public even though I am completely healthy and symptom free.
According to the Los Angeles Times, state officials are in fact looking to file a court order to make it illegal for Hickox to leave her house. (As it stands, the quarantine is only a guideline, in spite of the police presence.) “We will make it mandatory,” Maine’s commissioner of health and human services, Mary Mayhew, said in a statement.
Said Hickox in response:
I am frustrated by this fact, and I have been told that it is the Attorney General’s intention to file legal action against me. And if this does occur, I will challenge the legal actions.
Hickox's decision to challenge the quarantine — and her threat that she may leave the house as soon as Thursday — has drawn the ire of many across the state; a Facebook page called “Mainers against Kaci Hickox returning home to Fort Kent Maine" has several hundred supporters, all of whom are hating on Hickox for supposedly being "selfish."
But as she told the press, "it is not my intention to put anyone at risk in this community," and she hasn't even decided if she will break the quarantine. Really, her fight isn't so much about the inconvenience factor, the claustrophobic factor, or even the humiliation factor — it's about saving basic freedoms in the face of fear-dictated policies.
Images: Getty Images