Kaci Hickox was already a hero when she was ensnared in Chris Christie’s Quarantine Tent And Showerless Wonder Emporium, but now, she’s graduated from fighting Ebola to fighting for freedom.
After Christie caved in to legal pressure from Hickox and/or a whack on the snout from the White House, Hickox was sent home to Maine, where she promptly told Governor Paul LePage (R-ME) where he could go with his 21 day quarantine:
“I truly believe this policy is not scientifically nor constitutionally just, and so I’m not going to sit around and be bullied around by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public.”
“If the restrictions placed on me by the state of Maine are not lifted by Thursday morning, I will go to court to fight for my freedom.”
Governor LePage’s respnse was to send state troopers to Hickox’s home, and to promise to explore “all of our options for protecting the health and well-being” of the state’s residents. Late this afternoon, Maine Health and Human Services Commissioner Mary Mayhew held a press conference to announce what those “options” are, which are to institute a “voluntary” quarantine that’s backed up with the threat of legal action:
“When it is made clear by an individual in this risk category that they do not intend to voluntarily stay at home for the remaining 21 days, we will immediately seek a court order to ensure that they do not make contact with the public.”
You keep using that word “voluntarily,” I do not think it means what you think it means.
LePage, who is incidentally locked in a tight 3-way reelection fight, has just set himself up as the villain against the Ebola nurse equivalent of Braveheart, but he has also set the stage for a broader, more symbolic showdown. Since the Ebola crisis took root in Dallas a few weeks ago, actual health experts and the people who listen to them have been fighting a rising tide of hysteria, and the ill-advised policies that accompany it. Just this afternoon, President Obama delivered a 22-minute rebuke of overzealous policies that harm heroic health care workers like Kaci Hickox, and concluded by putting the fearmongers “on notice.”
So far, fear has been winning, as the public overwhelmingly supports harmful quarantines and travel restrictions, but there has also been high public confidence that the disease will be thwarted in the U.S. When they’re not put to the test, blustery digures like Chris Christie and Paul LePage can carry the day on sheer volume, but in order to defeat Kaci Hickox, LePage will have to convince a judge to ignore science, ignore Kaci Hickox’s rights, and deprive her of her freedom.
I’m betting on Kaci Hickox, and her imminent defeat of LePage could be just the thing the public needs to break the fever of panic that’s gripped them. The alternative, that the health care workers who are so crucial to stopping Ebola in Africa will be rewarded with imprisonment, is unthinkable.