An Ebola drama that began to play out on Friday when nurse Kaci Hickox was quarantined/imprisoned in New Jersey ended Monday with Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) letting her go under pressure from the White House, and Hickox’s lawyer.
Over the weekend, Hickox became a national news story when the circumstances of her detention became widely publicized. On the heels of the New York Ebola case, Governors Christie and Andrew Cuomo (D-N.Y.) announced new quarantine policies, and in that atmosphere, Hickox was detained at Newark Liberty International Airport on Friday because she was returning from Sierra Leone, where she had been treating Ebola patients. According to Hickox, she was completely asymptomatic when she got to the airport:
“I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.
“…Four hours after I landed at the airport, an official approached me with a forehead scanner. My cheeks were flushed, I was upset at being held with no explanation. The scanner recorded my temperature as 101.”
She was taken to the hospital, where her temperature was recorded as normal, and where an Ebola test came back negative, but where she was also told she’d be quarantined in a tent for 21 days. She was not happy, and neither was the White House, which put out an official leak saying the policy was “not grounded in science,” and President Obama obliquely addressed these policies at his big Ebola meeting on Sunday, according to the White House readout of the meeting (via email):
“The President’s advisors updated him on policy considerations for new measures pertaining to returning healthcare workers, whose selfless efforts are critical to fighting this epidemic in West Africa. The President underscored that the steps we take must be guided by the best medical science, as informed by our most knowledgeable public health experts. He also emphasized that these measures must recognize that healthcare workers are an indispensable element of our effort to lead the international community to contain and ultimately end this outbreak at its source, and should be crafted so as not to unnecessarily discourage those workers from serving. He directed his team to formulate policies based on these principles in order to offer the highest level of protection to the American people.”
Hickox, meanwhile, hired a lawyer to get her out of Ebola jail, and Chris Christie decided on Monday to let her go. He told a reporter, though, that it had nothing to do with getting slapped around by the nurse, her lawyer, or her president, and also delivered a great new tourism slogan for his fair state:
“My job is not to represent her.”
New Jersey and You: Fuck You Very Much.
What’s weird is that, despite Christie’s insistence that her negative Ebola test made it all okay to release her (two days later), Christie’s Department of Health was sure to stress that Hickox would be traveling home to Maine “via a private carrier not via mass transit or commercial aircraft.”
The quarantine policies were the main topic at Monday’s White House briefing, and while Press Secretary Josh Earnest tried to let Christie save face by repeatedly refusing to ” read out conversations” between the administration and the governors, you don’t need an Enigma box to read between these lines:
Earnest was also careful not to explicitly denounce the policy, while also pretty much denouncing it:
“Her service and commitment to this cause is something that should be honored and respected, and I don’t think we do that by making her live in a tent for 2 or 3 days.”
It’s impossible to tell if Christie was humbled by this awesome nurse, or this Obama fellow, or nobody at all, but according to one source, this is proof that Christie capitulated to NObama once again.