LOS ANGELES, November 3, 2014 – Since the publication of the story of Kaci Hickox’s forced quarantine immediately upon her arrival at Newark International Airport and her return to her home in Maine, there has been a strong reaction from readers concerning government mandated quarantines.
Some readers, despite the testimony of epidemiologists in District Court Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere’s courtroom and unanimous agreement among health authorities at all levels, that a person exposed to Ebola is not contagious absent specific symptoms, are angry, resentful and fearful of Ms. Hickox and other health workers that have been discovered to have cared for victims of the virus.
The degree of ignorance regarding under what circumstances an individual would be infectious, is staggering. One respondent in a Facebook thread called Kaci a “crybaby”. Others called for her nursing license to be revoked and in so many words, expressed agreement with the possibility that Kaci might not only receive death threats, but that perhaps someone will attempt to murder her. “One to the head for not following the quarantine. Once folks see that this is being taken deadly seriously, you will likely get 100% compliance.”
In fact, Fort Kent Police Chief Tom Pelletier said one of the biggest issues is protecting Hickox, who has received death threats.
Others compared her to Typhoid Mary. “Perhaps Kaci is a distant descendant of “Typhoid Mary”. Apparently she is cut from the same cloth, regardless of actual relation.”
Another typical sentiment – “I hope that when she goes looking for a nursing job everyone turns her down. She’s truly no shining example of her profession. She is a pain in the ass narcissist.” The words “selfish” and “narcissist” crop up often, from people who haven’t themselves lifted a finger to help suffering humanity.
And then there are the folks who have concluded that Kaci is a leftist, a liberal and / or an Obama supporter, although no one knows particularly what Ms. Hickox’ politics are, nor should it matter. “Hickox is a selfish, self-absorbed, hypocritical brat. She also may be an ends-justify-the-means lefty zealot activist.” Some claim that Hickox is registered in Nevada as a Democrat, implying that resisting arbitrary political mandates is a partisan rather than a constitutional matter.
Misogyny seems to be in the mix with the negative sentiment demonstrated by this commenter attributing Kaci’s attitude to being young, single and college-educated. “Young, single, college-educated women like Hickox are one big reason we’ve been stuck with Obama for two terms.”
Ms. Hickox, is being called “a witch”. That seems appropriate, given that the hysteria invoked regarding the disease, is reminiscent of the superstitious atmosphere that provoked the Salem Witch trials. Christine O’Donnell could probably sympathize.
To complete the mania cycle, Kaci Hickox was not in Sierra Leone to administer life saving aid to desperate victims of Ebola, while risking her own health. Instead, she – according to some of her critics, was there because it is a fashionable thing to do. One commenter opined, “These people don’t go over there to help as much as they go over there to build their resume for Hampton spring parties with the Obama elites. “See look what I did!” is the call. I read the doctor’s resume from some of his social media and it read like the lefty dream jobs! And he was all proud of it too!”
And the conservative blogosphere is leaning against Kaci. “The problem with Hickox’s behavior is not that she is putting the public at risk. Her actions are problematic because she is so flagrantly and contemptuously violating measures put in place by public officials in order to calm a nervous public”, says Noah Rothman on Hot Air.
This is a revealing statement. The writer recognizes that Ms. Hickox is not a public health threat. Her true sin is the audaciousness in not abiding by politically motivated protocols imposed by politicians with an upcoming election foremost in their minds.
Petitions to insist that Ms. Hickox submit to an involuntary quarantine are being circulated by a neighbor in Maine, Jamie Gaskey. It reads:
“This woman was exposed to the Ebola Virus in Africa. Instead of doing her required Quarantine Time, she threatened a Law Suit and got to leave after 1 DAY of Quarantine and Allowed to Return to Maine. The intent of this Petition is to Have Kaci Hickox do her Quarantine Time without it being Voluntary or risk having her Medical License Revoked.”
The petition’s author didn’t bother to check facts and discover that Governor Christie had Ms. Hickox held in isolation not for “1 DAY”, but actually for nearly 3 days, during which time the Governor was informed by doctors at Newark University Hospital that Kaci did not have a fever, was asymptomatic and was twice tested negative for Ebola. And residents in Fort Kent, Maine reportedly have told business owners they are going to shop outside the area until November 10th.
Kaci Hickox is not alone in being the target of resentment and object of fear, based on an emotional, instead of rational assessment of the circumstances. Bellevue’s medical director, Dr. Nate Link, said more than a dozen employees — not limited to those taking care of Dr. Spencer — had reported being discriminated against, including not being welcome at a business or social event. One employee lost a teaching position, he said.
Not all of the criticism is coming from the political Right. Former Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz chimed in on the controversy. “People ought to comply and not selfishly try to bring lawsuits to challenge the public health measures that are taken.”
But another view regarding government mandated arbitrary quarantines of healthcare workers is outlined by Lawrence O. Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. “This is, I think, pushing the envelope quite a bit and is highly counterproductive. I can’t think of a situation where any jurisdiction in the United States in modern times has simply quarantined a whole class of people.”
At the end of the day, though, perhaps the wisest and most reasonable approach to balancing best medical practices, civil liberties and public concerns, was the one voiced by Maine District Court Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere:
“The court is fully aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola,” the judge said. “The court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational. However, whether that fear is rational or not, it is present and it is real. She should guide herself accordingly.”