Kaci Hickox, a nurse with Doctors Without Borders, was put in mandatory quarantine when she returned to New Jersey from treating Ebola patients. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Hickox spoke out against the way she's been treated despite showing no signs of the deadly virus.
"I just came back from one of the most difficult months of my life," Hickox said. "To make me stay for 21 days, to not be with my family, to put me through this emotional and physical stress is completely unacceptable."
New Jersey officials on Monday announced they would release Hickox from the hospital and allowed to travel to her home in Maine after she showed no symptoms of Ebola for 24 hours, although she will remain under a mandatory quarantine order as long as she's in New Jersey. Hickox had been held for three days, well short of Ebola's 21-day incubation period.
The new policy, put in place by New Jersey on Friday, requires health-care workers returning from Ebola-stricken West Africa to go through an isolated quarantine.
The concern, as Vox's Sarah Kliff previously explained, is that the requirement could scare sorely needed health-care workers, like Hickox, from volunteering in West Africa. That could make the already terrible outbreaks in Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia worse — and therefore make Ebola more likely to spread beyond those countries — since one of the main drivers of the epidemic is inadequate health-care resources.
"When considering this issue, we also have to balance what you're putting the health-care workers through and how evidence-based your approach is," Hickox said. "There always needs to be a balance, because I also want to be treated with compassion and humanity, and I don't feel like I've been treated that way in the past three days."
The quarantine requirement was established after Craig Spencer, also with Doctors Without Borders, on Thursday tested positive for Ebola, more than a week after he returned to New York City from West Africa. But there's no evidence Spencer broke protocol or put anyone at risk. He called Doctors Without Borders the day he started showing a fever — typically the first symptom of Ebola — and he was hospitalized shortly thereafter. Since Ebola patients are only contagious while they're showing symptoms, he couldn't have posed a threat to others while bowling, jogging for three miles, or any of the other public activities he's been criticized for on social media.
New York, alongside New Jersey, placed a mandatory quarantine requirement for health-care workers returning from West Africa following Spencer's diagnosis. But New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, facing public pressure from the Obama administration, on Sunday announced the state would loosen the rules to allow workers showing no symptoms to return to their homes, where they will be confined and monitored for 21 days.
At a press conference on Sunday, Cuomo urged New Jersey Governor Chris Christie to also reconsider the quarantine measures.