Nurse’s Quarantine Was Based on ‘Fear and Politics’

Kaci Hickox is pictured in this undated image provided by the University of Texas at Arlington.

University of Texas at Arlington/AP Photo

 Kaci Hickox, the nurse who was placed in quarantine at a New Jersey hospital despite exhibiting no Ebola symptoms after arriving from West Africa, is “very pleased” about her release and looks forward to some rest and relaxation, her attorney told ABC News.

Hickox left the hospital Monday afternoon to be taken to Maine, where she lives. Her attorney, Norman Siegel, said he plans to speak with Hickox today about their strategy for dealing with the courts of law and public opinion.

“Her civil rights were violated,” Siegel told ABC News. “At a minimum, she could bring an action for damages. But I think her goal is to try to revise the current policies with regard to, for example, mandatory quarantines.”

Siegel criticized New Jersey and New York governors Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo for enacting quarantine policies, despite criticisms from the Obama administration and medical experts that the measures were unnecessary.

Kaci Hickox is seen sitting inside the isolation tent she has been housed in at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

Handout image
Kaci Hickox is seen sitting inside the isolation tent she has been housed in at University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

Hickox, 29, was the first person forced into New Jersey’s mandatory quarantine after arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport Friday. She had previously treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders, but never registered a fever, leaving no medical reason to keep her quarantined, Siegel said.

She was held in a tent structure outside of University Hospital in Newark.

“When you look at what happened and how it happened, you come away with the sense that this policy was based on fear and politics rather on medical fact, and we can’t have the politicians directing these kinds of important issues,” Siegel said.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, left, listens as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talks at a news conference, Oct. 24, 2014 in New York.

Mark Lennihan/AP Photo
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, left, listens as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie talks at a news conference, Oct. 24, 2014 in New York.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that the federal government has established Ebola guidelines that are “based on solid science,” but he declined to classify states’ quarantine efforts as a mistake.

“I don’t want to use the word mistake because I think when people do things, the governor of New York, the governor of New Jersey, they’re doing it in good faith to try and do what they feel is the best for their constituents,” Fauci said in an interview with “Good Morning America.” “What we’re trying to do is set the bar that’s based on scientific data, but that’s not to criticize or to put down a decision that an official might make wanting to go the extra mile. That’s just judgment on their part.”

Health care workers such as Hickox who return to Maine from West Africa will remain under a 21-day home quarantine, with their condition actively monitored, Gov. Paul R. LePage said in a statement.

“We will help make sure the health care worker has everything to make this time as comfortable as possible,” he said.