Kaci Hickox, a nurse who arrived in New Jersey on October 24 after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, speaks to her lawyer Norman Siegel from a hospital quarantine tent in Newark, New Jersey, October 26, 2014, in a photo provided by attorney Steve Hyman. CREDIT: REUTERS/STEVE HYMAN/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS
The saga of nurse Kaci Hickox illustrates how U.S. states are struggling to protect against the virus without resorting to overzealous and useless precautions or violating civil rights.
Hickox, 33, tested negative for Ebola after returning from treating patients in West Africa. She previously blasted New Jersey Governor Chris Christie after she was taken from Newark's airport and put in quarantine in a tent before being driven to Maine to spend the rest of her 21-day quarantine at her home.
"I truly believe this policy is not scientifically nor constitutionally just, and so I am 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," Hickox, speaking from her home in the small Maine town of Fort Kent along the Canadian border, told NBC's "Today" program.
"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," Hickox added.
Hickox's defiance did not sit well with Republican Governor Paul LePage, who said he would seek legal authority to keep her isolated at home until Nov. 10.
"While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state," LePage said in a statement.
At a White House event, President Barack Obama scolded politicians who have sought quarantines or strict travel bans for caving into fears, although he did not mention anyone by name.
"When I hear people talking about American leadership, and then are promoting policies that would avoid leadership and have us running in the opposite direction and hiding under the covers, it makes me a little frustrated," Obama said.
The president was flanked by three doctors in white lab coats and several other healthcare workers who have served in West Africa or will soon travel there. "When they come home, they deserve to be treated properly. They deserve to be treated like the heroes they are," Obama said.
Even people who did not treat Ebola patients but traveled to West Africa are facing restrictions.
A Connecticut school superintendent defended the decision to keep a 7-year-old girl out of class for three weeks over concerns the girl might have contracted Ebola while at a wedding in Nigeria. The World Health Organization declared Nigeria Ebola-free days after the girl's trip.
Hickox worked with the humanitarian group Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone, one of the three nations at the heart of an outbreak that has killed about 5,000 people in West Africa. Liberia, the country worst-hit by the epidemic, may be seeing a decline in the spread of the virus, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.
In several media interviews, Hickox said she was in good health and had not had any symptoms of the virus that would indicate she had become contagious. Hickox said she had been monitoring her condition and taking her temperature twice a day.