Kena Betancur/Getty Images(NEWARK, N.J.) — The nurse who was angrily battling her enforced quarantine at a New Jersey hospital after treating Ebola patients was released Monday, and Gov. Chris Christie said the nurse will understand “when she has time to reflect.”
“I know she didn’t want to be there,” Christie said at an event in Florida earlier in the day. “No one ever wants to be in the hospital, I suspect. And, so, I understand that. But, the fact is I have a much greater, bigger responsibility to the people of the public.”
Kaci Hickox, who tested negative for the lethal virus after she returned to the United States from Sierra Leone, has been outspoken about being held in quarantine since her arrival at Newark International Airport Friday.
She also hired a lawyer known for taking human rights cases and they announced their plan to file a federal lawsuit against her mandatory 21-day quarantine.
“I’m so thankful for the immense attention and support I’ve received. I just hope this nightmare of mine and the fight that I’ve undertaken is not in vain!” she wrote in a text to ABC News’ Chief Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser.
The New Jersey Department of Health issued a statement Monday morning that Hickox had been “symptom free for the last 24 hours,” and that it decided to discharge her after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention released its own set of guidelines Monday saying that anyone who did come into direct contact with “Ebola-positive individuals” will require active monitoring and will be quarantined in their home.
Her release appeared to be a reversal the tough stance Christie had taken on the issue this weekend. The Republican governor, who is widely seen as one of the party’s top presidential hopefuls for 2016, says that he ordered the quarantine to protect the people of New Jersey.
Hickox has asked that she be taken to Maine and the New Jersey Health Department said she would be taken there by car, and not by public transportation.
“Health officials in Maine have been notified of her arrangements and will make a determination under their own laws on her treatment when she arrives,” the New Jersey statement said.
Hickox, 33, hired civil rights attorney Norman Siegel to fight her mandatory quarantine. The nurse has said she feels that her “basic human rights are being violated,” kept in an isolation tent at University Hospital in Newark, despite showing no symptoms of the Ebola virus.
Hickox never registered a fever, Siegel said, but the Health Department’s statement Monday morning said she did briefly have a fever. It did not say what her temperature was.
She was the first person quarantined under a new strict policy instituted by Christie on Friday.
New York, Illinois and Florida also instituted mandatory quarantines for anyone exposed to people infected with Ebola health. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will allow home quarantines for people showing no symptoms, rather than requiring isolation in hospitals.
The policies have drawn the attention of the Obama administration, which told the governors of New Jersey and New York that there are “concerns” about the mandatory quarantines, a senior administration official said Monday.
Medical experts say that there is no reason for mandatory quarantines, since unless a person is showing symptoms of Ebola, they are not contagious.
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