FORT KENT, Maine (AP) — Kaci Hickox is free to travel unrestricted after a Maine judge on Friday rejected the state’s bid to limit her movements as a medical worker who has treated Ebola patients.
Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere ruled Hickox must continue daily monitoring and coordinate travel with state health officials to ensure continuity of monitoring. The judge said there’s no need to restrict her movements because she’s not infectious because she’s showing no symptoms.
With the judge’s ruling, a state police cruiser parked outside her home drove away. The state went to court Thursday to impose restrictions on Hickox until the 21-day incubation period for Ebola ends on Nov. 10. Hickox, who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, contended confinement at her home in northern Maine violated her rights.
There was no immediate comment from state officials. The judge thanked Hickox for her service in Africa and acknowledged the gravity of restricting someone’s constitutional rights without solid science to back it up.
“The court is fully aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola,” he wrote. “The court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational.”
Hickox, 33, stepped into the media glare when she returned from treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone to become subject to a mandatory quarantine in New Jersey. After being released from a hospital there, she returned to this small town, where she was placed under what Maine authorities called a voluntary quarantine.
She said she is following the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommendation of daily monitoring for fever and other signs of the disease. “I’m not willing to stand here and let my civil rights be violated when it’s not science-based,” she said earlier in the week.
The legal action is shaping up as the nation’s biggest test case yet in the struggle to balance public health and fear of Ebola against personal freedom. In a court filing, the director of the Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention backed away from the state’s original request for an in-home quarantine and called for restrictions that fall in line with federal guidelines.
Hickox remains at risk of being infected with Ebola until the end of a 21-day incubation period, Dr. Sheila Pinette. “It is my opinion that the respondent should be subjected to an appropriate public health order for mandatory direct active monitoring and restrictions on movement as soon as possible and until the end of the incubation period … to protect the public health and safety,” she wrote.