Kaci Hickox went for a bike ride Thursday, defying Maine's “voluntary” quarantine that she’s fought against for the past week. The nurse's refusal to stay in her home has ignited debate over whether she should be considered a hero for volunteering to fight Ebola in West Africa or a selfish danger to the public.
TV personality Piers Morgan made his opinion clear in a harshly worded opinion piece in the Daily Mail in which he called Hickox “utterly selfish.” “Nurse Hickox should stop her pathetic squealing, fire her lawyer, get off TV, thank her lucky stars she's not got Ebola, and stay inside her damn home for the next couple of weeks to ensure there's not a tiny scintilla of chance she could infect a fellow American,” he argued.
Others sought to quell fears. Charles Blow, of the New York Times, said Hickox “is a paladin being treated like a leper,” and that mandatory quarantines would discourage health workers from volunteering in West Africa.
Hickox, a 33-year-old nurse, spent a month treating Ebola patients in West Africa with Doctors Without Borders and returned to the U.S. last week through Liberty International Airport in Newark, New Jersey. Airport screeners found she had a 101-degree Fahrenheit fever and New Jersey state authorities quarantined her shortly after.
Hickox fought fiercely against the quarantine and criticized New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for enforcing it. At the time of her travels, a New York doctor tested positive for the virus after returning from treating Ebola in West Africa, prompting Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to announce a new policy requiring any health care workers returning from treating Ebola patients to be quarantined for 21 days. Hickox was released on Monday, reportedly following pressure on Christie from the Obama Administration. She was allowed to go home to Maine, where she was expected to stay in isolation.
She tested negative for the virus while in quarantine in New Jersey, but Hickox’s blood wouldn’t test positive for the virus until she was symptomatic, so there’s still a possibility that she does have Ebola. The widely accepted practice is to have potential Ebola patients self-monitor and report symptoms immediately, but some don’t trust workers to do so. Maine Gov. Paul LePage said he will allow Hickox to stay out of quarantine if she agrees to take a blood test.
While most Americans have virtually no chance of contracting Ebola, the fear that health care workers returning from fighting the disease in West Africa will spread it in the U.S. continues to concern the public. A Pew Research study found that 41 percent of respondents were “worried that they themselves or someone in their family will be exposed to the virus,” and 17 percent said they are “very worried.”
As the first health care worker to be quarantined under the new travel policies, Hickox has become a focal point of the national debate on how to stop Ebola. The general consensus in the medical community is that a quarantine is unnecessary. Dr. Arthur Caplan, director of the Division of Medical Ethics at NYU Langone Medical Center, said the quarantine is more about quelling public fear than it is about containing the virus.
But some dissenting voices have made themselves heard. Dr. Marc Siegel, an internist and media figure, said a mandatory quarantine would calm the public and keep people safer. “We need a consistent policy to protect and reassure us at least until our confidence in the public health response to Ebola stabilizes,” he said.
â€” bonnie (@boniemylurv) October 30, 2014
Many Americans have expressed anger with Hickox for leaving her home and potentially exposing others to Ebola. TV personality Geraldo Rivera said Hickox was "squandering the goodwill that she righteously earned in Africa by being arrogant."
All Kaci Hickox is, is a spoiled brat who wants her way. And her way only.
— GoSpursGo (@Jason_Wacker) October 30, 2014
— LoneWolf (@SurlyBull) October 30, 2014
Hickox obviously getting the attention she seeks. It's too bad we can't ignore her dangerous precedent. The next defier could be a spreader
— greybeard (@greybeard411) October 30, 2014
Kaci Hickox on a bike ride Quarantine? Will I not abide Accused of being a shrew She tells the world, FU! Now her rep smells like low tide
— Seamus (@SeamusTx) October 30, 2014
â€” Maria Cardona (@MariaTCardona) October 30, 2014