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Maine Judge Rejects Nurse's Quarantine Order


And I'm Audie Cornish. A judge has rejected the state of Maine's attempts to restrict Kaci Hickox. She's the nurse who has been taking on the state's Ebola quarantine requirements since returning from West Africa. Patty Wight of Maine Public Radio says the nurse still has to continue daily monitoring of her health.

PATTY WIGHT, BYLINE: The state of Maine filed a court order seeking to ban Hickox from public transportation, public places and require her to maintain a three-foot distance from others while engaging in activities like biking. But in an emergency teleconference today, a district court judge said the state failed to provide clear and convincing evidence such restrictions are necessary to protect public health. After the decision, Kaci Hickox emerged from her house on a rural road in Fort Kent to say she was satisfied.


KACI HICKOX: I am humbled today by the judge's decision and even more humbled by the support that we have received from the town of Fort Kent, the state of Maine, across the U.S. and even across the globe.

WIGHT: The judge said Hickox must still submit to daily active monitoring by a health worker. Hickox must also coordinate any travel plans with health officials and immediately report any Ebola symptoms that appear. She's free to go to public places. But standing alongside her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, she said she had no immediate plans.


HICKOX: And I don't want to make anyone uncomfortable. I think so far Ted and I have shown a lot of respect to this community. We care about the community. You know, I'm a nurse and a public health worker. I don't want to make people uncomfortable.

WIGHT: Hickox recently returned from treating Ebola patients in West Africa, but she's tested negative for the disease and never had any symptoms. Still, the state originally wanted Hickox to self-quarantine in her house. Hickox broke that requirement yesterday when she and her boyfriend went for an hour-long bike ride in the opposite direction of downtown Fort Kent. While Hickox is pleased with the decision, Maine Governor Paul LePage is disappointed.

PAUL LEPAGE: This ruling is a basis on what is more important - individual rights or public safety? And I contend that the decision was in favor of the individual rights.

WIGHT: The Centers for Disease Control says Ebola can only be transmitted through direct contact with bodily fluids when someone is actively showing symptoms. But LePage says he'd rather be safe than sorry.

LEPAGE: We don't know what we don't know about Ebola. And I'm concerned, but he ruled. And as the governor, I took an oath to honor the rulings of the court and the laws and I'm going to do that.

WIGHT: Hickox says she knows Ebola is scary but the battle against the virus will only be won when people overcome their fears and have a better collective understanding of the disease. Another court hearing could be held next week. For NPR News, I'm Patty Wight in Fort Kent. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Patty is a graduate of the University of Vermont and a multiple award-winning reporter for Maine Public Radio. Her specialty is health coverage: from policy stories to patient stories, physical health to mental health and anything in between. Patty joined Maine Public Radio in 2012 after producing stories as a freelancer for NPR programs such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered. She got hooked on radio at the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine, and hasn’t looked back ever since.