A nurse who treated Ebola patients in Sierra Leone but has tested negative for the virus went for a bike ride on Thursday, defying Maine`s order that she be quarantined in her home and setting up a legal collision with Governor Paul LePage.
Attorneys for Kaci Hickox, 33, said they had not yet been served with a court order to enforce the 21-day quarantine – matching the virus`s maximum incubation period – but remained prepared to fight such an order if necessary.
LePage`s office said negotiations with Hickox, who worked with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone, “have failed despite repeated efforts by state officials” and that he would “exercise the full extent of his authority allowable by law.”
The quarantine showdown between Hickox and Maine has become the focal point of a struggle between several U.S. states opting for stringent measures to guard against Ebola and a federal government wary of discouraging potential medical volunteers.
Mandatory quarantines ordered by some U.S. states on doctors and nurses returning from West Africa`s Ebola outbreak are creating a “chilling effect” on Doctors Without Borders operations there, the humanitarian group said on Thursday.
A California-based nurses union said it was organizing strikes and other protests against what it views as insufficient protection for nurses caring for patients stricken with the deadly virus.
Hickox left her home in the small Maine town of Fort Kent, along the Canadian border, and television news images showed her taking a morning bicycle ride with her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur. Hickox has given the New England state a deadline of Thursday to lift an order that she remain at home until Nov. 10, or she will go to court.
“It’s a beautiful day for a bike ride,” said Hickox, wearing a helmet and other bike gear as she headed out for her 3-mile (5-km) ride while police stationed outside her house stood by without trying to stop her, according to local media.
LePage`s office said he was open to an arrangement in which she could go for walks, runs or bike rides but not go into public places or come within 3 feet (1 meter) of other people.