By now you've probably heard of Kaci Hickox, the volunteer nurse who travelled to combat the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, only to be met with a great deal of controversy when she got home. She was placed under a mandatory 21-day quarantine by order of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, a decision which has drawn a lot of criticism in recent days. Not least of all from the woman in question, as evidenced by a high-profile appearance Sunday — Kaci Hickox discussed her Ebola quarantine, Chris Christie's "politics" behind the move, and her ongoing plan to self-monitor her health to NBC News' Meet The Press.
Hickox was working to halt the Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone before flying into Newark, where she was isolated in a tent thanks to Christie's order. At this point sounds like Christie's confidence that the 33-year-old Hickox would "understand" his decision to quarantine, given adequate "time to reflect," may have been misguided. In fact, quite the contrary — Hickox is spreading the word about just how wrong she believes Christie was, a sentiment that's been echoed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio. Speaking to Meet The Press host Chuck Todd, Hickox argued that Christie's alleged "abundance of caution" in ordering her isolated was no such thing.
Definitely the goal was to make sure that we're talking about science, and not politics. ... When Gov. Christie stated that it was an abundance of caution, which is his reasoning for putting health care workers in a sort of quarantine for three weeks, it was really an abundance of politics. And I think all of the scientific and medical and public health community agrees with me on that statement.
That distinction about science over politics is an important one, considering the details of Hickox's story. Despite testing negative for Ebola on two occasions, and having been asymptomatic to this point, she still had to seek a court ruling allowing her to leave her home as usual, following a much-publicized bike ride she took on Thursday.
Basically, Hickox is trying to tamp down paranoia about health workers returning from West Africa, and insisting that her rights be respected. That first point is one which President Obama emphasized while meeting with a group of returning volunteers Wednesday — if onerous and unscientifically sound restrictions are put on health workers returning home, it could disincentivize potential new volunteers.
What we need right now is these shock troops that are out there leading globally. And we can't discourage that, we need to encourage it, and applaud it.
Christie, for his part, hasn't backed down from defending his order, and he's still backing a mandatory 21-day quarantine for all health workers returning to New Jersey from Ebola-stricken West African states. But he hasn't done so without getting raked over the coals by a number of health workers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
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