Lawyers for a nurse quarantined in a New Jersey hospital say they’ll sue to have her released and file a constitutional challenge to state restrictions for health care workers returning to New York and New Jersey after treating Ebola patients in West Africa. Civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel said Kaci Hickox, who was quarantined after arriving Friday at the Newark airport, shows no symptoms and should be released immediately. He and attorney Steven Hyman said the state attorney general’s office had cooperated in getting them access to Hickox.
The lawyers, speaking outside Newark University Hospital, where Hickox is quarantined, said they spent 75 minutes with her on Sunday. They said she was being kept in a tented area on the hospital’s first floor with a bed, folding chairs and little else — they said she was able to get a laptop computer with wi-fi access only Sunday. But they said she is not being treated. “She is fine. She is not sick,” Hyman said. Photos they released showed her in hospital garb peering through a plastic window of the tented-off area.
After a doctor back from West Africa was diagnosed with the virus last week, the governors of New York and New Jersey ordered quarantines for all returning medical workers who had treated Ebola patients. But on Sunday federal officials and health experts criticized such policies as counterproductive. “We believe that the medical experts should be directing these policies, not the politicians,” Siegel said.
Late Sunday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced details of his state’s protocols for anyone returning from affected countries who had exposure to Ebola. He said they would have to remain in their homes for 21 days, and health care workers would check on them twice a day for any symptoms. Cuomo said accommodations would be found for any who didn’t have a place to stay.