New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has responded disdainfully to an American nurse’s threat of a lawsuit over her unreasonable detention by public health officials after she returned from working in West Africa.
On Wednesday, NBC News reported that when Christie was informed that Maine nurse Kaci Hickox might sue him and the state, he said, “Whatever. Get in line. I’ve been sued lots of times before.”
Hickox is a Maine-based nurse who uses her spare time to travel to the developing world, working with Doctors Without Borders to bring health care to underserved areas like West Africa. She treated Ebola patients on her latest trip, but tested negative for the disease when she left Africa and has never shown any symptoms.
Nonetheless, Hickox was detained against her will — and against scientific evidence — when she landed at Newark International Airport in New Jersey. She was informed that she would have to remain in quarantine for 21 days until health officials were convinced that she was Ebola free.
Hickox protested vehemently against the imposed confinement and was eventually released. Now she is at home in Maine, but is defying quarantine orders, saying that public hysteria doesn’t match the scientific evidence of how Ebola is spread.
Civil rights attorney Norman Siegel, who is representing Hickox, said that the policies enacted late last week by Gov. Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) were unfounded and are an infringement upon the liberties of people who are volunteering to fight dreaded diseases overseas.
“The mandatory quarantine policy enacted by Govs. Christie and Cuomo creates serious and substantial civil liberties issues,” said Siegel. “You can’t have a policy based on fear. It’s got to be based on medical fact.”
Christie dismissed Hickox’s complaints as “malarkey.”
“She was inside the hospital in a climate-controlled area with access to her cellphone, access to the Internet and takeout food from the best restaurants in Newark. She was doing just fine,” the governor told NBC.
Hickox’ partner Ted Wilbur told the New York Times that in his estimation, the Christie administration had “messed with the wrong redhead” if it expected her to quietly submit to an unreasonable, unscientific quarantine.
On Tuesday, President Barack Obama spoke out against these knee-jerk, mandatory quarantines for all aid workers returning from the nations affected by the Ebola epidemic.
In an afternoon press conference, Obama said, “We don’t just react based on our fears. We react based on facts and judgment and making smart decisions.”
[Hat-tip to TPM]