Michelle Kaske (c) 2014, Bloomberg News. NEW YORK — Gov. Paul LePage, R, said he would try to force nurse Kaci Hickox to abide by Maine’s Ebola quarantine, escalating the confrontation between the previously little-known aid worker and the political leaders of two states.
Hickox, who has shown no symptoms since a brief fever, was kept in a tent at a New Jersey hospital after returning from treating patients in Sierra Leone before being released by Gov. Chris Christie, R. She said Wednesday she wouldn’t follow isolation orders in Maine, where she lives. LePage, 66, who faces a re-election fight Nov. 4, said he would try to make her.
“Upon learning the healthcare worker intends to defy the protocols, the Office of the Governor has been working collaboratively with the State health officials within the Department of Health and Human Services to seek legal authority to enforce the quarantine,” he said a statement. “While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers.”
Government officials are struggling to calm fears of contagion while not penalizing aid workers who venture to countries at the center of the still-raging epidemic. In West Africa, the virus has infected about 10,000 people and killed about half, according to the World Health Organization. In the U.S., one man who traveled from Liberia died.
Hickox, a 33-year-old volunteer for Doctors Without Borders, said this morning that Maine’s orders were unjust.She is a graduate of the University of Texas at Arlington nursing program.
“I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me, even though I am in perfectly good health and feeling strong and have been this entire time completely symptom -free,” Hickox said Wednesday in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.
If the state were to force Hickox to stay home through a court order, she would fight such a move, said Steven Hyman, one of her lawyers.
“If they attempt to get one, Kaci will contest it,” Hyman, a partner in New York at McLaughlin & Stern LLP, said in a telephone interview.
Doctors Without Borders “strongly disagrees with blanket forced quarantine for health care workers returning from Ebola affected countries,” the group said in an e-mailed statement.
Hickox, who Oct. 26 criticized Christie for her detention, is staying in Fort Kent near the Canadian border. She wouldn’t have emerged from Maine’s 21-day quarantine until Nov. 10.
Hickox was detained for Ebola monitoring at Newark Liberty International Airport after returning from Africa. The nurse was taken to University Hospital in Newark on Oct. 24. She said the fever she registered upon arrival was due to anger.
Christie later allowed her to travel to Maine after she remained asymptomatic.
“I could care less that she hired a lawyer,” Christie said Wednesday at a press event in Little Ferry. “I hope that for the public good and for her own good that she decides to comply with the quarantine that they’ve requested in Maine. I think that’s fair to the public and it’s common sense.”
Her home, population 4,090, marks the beginning of 2,328- mile (3,746 kilometer) U.S. Route 1. Fort Kent is at the top of the state’s the northernmost county, Aroostook, across the St. John River from Canada.
“You don’t look out for cops; you look for moose when you’re driving,” said Marc Chasse, a retired chiropractor who’s lived in the town for 50 years.
The last time he heard Fort Kent on the national news was in 2010, when the area flooded after receiving 210 inches of snow.
Local reaction has been mixed, he said, with the town manager and police chief assuring the public there’s nothing to fear. They have had mixed success, Chasse said.
“Ordinary folks are very much afraid,” he said.
LePage’s attempt to keep Hickox sequestered comes at a crucial political moment. The governor, a Tea Party favorite, has had a contentious first term.
He kept a roll of duct tape on his desk as a reminder to keep quiet after he alluded to sodomy while criticizing a political opponent. He joked about bombing the state’s largest newspaper and last year was quoted as saying the nation’s first black president “hates white people.”
About 38 percent of eligible Maine voters would re-elect the governor while 34 percent would vote for his Democratic opponent, Mike Michaud, according to a Pan Atlantic SMS Group poll conducted between Oct. 15 and Oct. 21. Another 10 percent plan to vote for independent Eliot Cutler.
The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.9 percentage points.
— With assistance from Esme E. Deprez and Allyson Versprille in New York and Annie Linskey in Washington.