NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — The lawyer for a nurse who was forcibly quarantined over the weekend in New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa says she’s seeking time to decompress in Maine.
Nurse Kaci Hickox traveled in a private vehicle to Maine after being released from University Hospital in Newark on Monday. Her lawyer confirmed Tuesday that she’d arrived in Maine and said she was at an “undisclosed location.”
Hickox became the first person forced into New Jersey’s mandatory quarantine for people arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport from the three West African countries hit hardest by the disease.
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Maine health officials have announced that she agreed to be quarantined at home for 21 days after the last possible exposure to the disease under the state’s health protocols, but her lawyer insists there’s no quarantine.
Attorney Steve Hyman said he expected her to remain in seclusion for the “next day or so” while he works with Maine health officials.
Hyman said the state should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that require only monitoring, not quarantine, for health care workers who show no symptoms after treating Ebola patients.
“She’s a very good person who did very good work and deserves to be honored, not detained, for it,” he said.
Hickox volunteered in Africa with Doctors Without Borders. She spent the weekend in a quarantine tent at University Hospital despite having no symptoms other than a slightly elevated temperature she blamed on “inhumane” treatment at Newark Airport.
She said she never had symptoms and tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were sharply criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines.
But Christie held firm on the quarantine policy Tuesday, saying he believes the CDC has lagged in its response and is incrementally taking steps toward changing its policies.
“The CDC is behind,” he told NBC’s “Today” show. “Folks got infected in Texas because they were behind and we’re not going to have folks infected in New Jersey or other states in this country. Governors have the responsibility.”
Christie said he won’t submit to political pressure when it comes to protecting the health of New Jersey residents and said both Republican and Democratic governors are adopting the stricter standards.
In Maine, state officials also announced a quarantine.
“Upon the healthcare workers’ return home, we will follow the guidelines set by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control for medical workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients,” Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement. “Additionally, we will work with the healthcare worker to establish an in-home quarantine protocol to ensure there is no direct contact with other Mainers until the period for potential infection has passed.”
But state officials later clarified it was only a voluntary quarantine.
“We fully expect individuals to voluntarily comply with an in-home quarantine,” LePage spokeswoman Adrienne Bennett said Monday. “If an individual is not compliant, the state is prepared to take appropriate action.”
Bennett did not immediately say what “appropriate action” might be.
Late Monday, Connecticut officials announced that all people coming to the state after traveling to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will at least face 21 days of mandatory monitoring involving state health officials contacting them daily.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said people will be evaluated based on a detailed analysis of their symptoms and background.
“We have taken this situation very seriously for months,” said Malloy. “With the news of a recent traveler with Ebola in neighboring New York, it is critical that we look at each case on an individual basis.”
There were already people quarantined in Connecticut as of Monday, Malloy said.
Some of those quarantined had isolated themselves voluntarily, others “based on a high level of exposure on their travel or their immigration from West Africa,” Malloy said.
Eight people in Connecticut without any symptoms were quarantined as of Monday night. A ninth person in Darien was removed from quarantine earlier Monday.
Malloy authorized quarantines earlier this month.
The CDC also announced new safety guidelines Monday which increase the level of protection by outlining four different levels of exposure: High risk, some risk, low but not-zero and no identified risk.
The CDC recommended 21 days of isolation and travel restrictions for people at highest risk for Ebola. Those at highest risk are anyone who’s had direct contact with an Ebola patient’s body fluids, including health care workers who suffer a needle-stick injury during a patient’s care.
Absent that direct contact, simply caring for Ebola patients or traveling in West Africa doesn’t warrant quarantine conditions, the public health agency said.
Previously the CDC has recommended screening of travelers from West Africa and monitoring of people for three weeks after they arrive in the United States.
Outside of Bellevue Hospital, where New York’s first Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer remains in isolation, many said they support the CDC’s new rules.
“I respect the CDC’s attempts to come up with good guidelines, but obviously it’s complicated and there’s not a lot of data,” Dr. David Goldfarb told CBS 2’s Janelle Burrell.
Experts say infected people only spread the disease when they are suffering symptoms, like fever, vomiting and diarrhea. They say mandatory quarantines of those without symptoms are unnecessarily severe and will discourage health workers from going to West Africa to fight the epidemic.
Meanwhile, Dallas nurse Amber Vinson, who was diagnosed with Ebola, will be released from an Atlanta hospital Tuesday after tests showed she’s virus-free, a hospital spokeswoman said.
Vinson was one of two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas who became infected while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died of Ebola at the hospital on Oct. 8.
The other infected nurse, Nina Pham, was released Oct. 24 from a hospital attached to the National Institutes of Health near Washington.
More than 4,900 Ebola deaths have been reported this year during the current epidemic, nearly all of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
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