Kaci Hickox is admirable person. She is a nurse who works with the organization, Doctors Without Borders. Just recently she returned from west Africa where she was helping treat Ebola patients. Obviously she has been out of the loop because she was shocked when she arrived back here. The problem was Ms. Hickox didn't realize the United States of America is now officially freaked out by the disease and anyone who might have come anywhere close to it.
She got a quick and startling lesson as soon as she deplaned in Newark, NJ. In her words the scene was, "...complete confusion and leaderless."
After spending three days in a quarantine tent in Jersey she somehow managed to get back to her home in Ft. Kent, Maine where she has remained isolated on a voluntary basis. It might not be voluntary much longer.
Somewhere between Newark and Ft. Kent, nurse Hickox got angry about the entire situation. Proving she is a true blue American, she began talking about walking out of her home tomorrow and suing the living daylights out of someone--perhaps everyone. In an interview on The Today Show she told, Matt Lauer, "I truly believe this policy is not scientifically, or constitutionally just and so I'm not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and be forced to stay in my home when I'm not a risk to the American public."
Unfortunately, what Kaci Hickox still hasn't gotten is, it isn't just the politicians who want her isolated. Overwhelmingly, it is the same American public she says she isn't a risk to. If she does make a quick trip to the local super market tomorrow and people recognize her, she will probably learn another lesson, one in mass hysteria.
After hearing what she had to say, Maine's governor, Paul LePage immediately began looking for a judge who would make her quarantine mandatory. NJ governor Chris Christie bluntly told her something along the lines of, "Go ahead sue me, get in line." Christie can make that challenge with total confidence because he might be many things, but he knows how to read his constituents. He understands perfectly if it were up to many of them the good nurse would have never even made it off the plane.
Ms. Hickox is looking to pick a fight with politicians, but in reality she is about to go to war with an entire populace so out of their heads with fear things are starting to get very strange indeed.
Think not? Earlier this month a teacher from a Maine school district was sent home for 21 days. It wasn't because she went rambling all willy-nilly through the west African countryside, but had attended a conference in Dallas, TX. Her hotel was nine and a half miles from the hospital that admitted a Liberian national with the disease and where two of his attending nurses came down with it. Using the same logic the entire University of Oklahoma football team and roughly 45,000 of its fans should still be sitting in quarantine at this very moment because OU played Texas in Dallas at about the same time.
In Connecticut a man is suing his third grader's school district because they won't allow her to return until after the magical 21 days. She had spent a week with her family in Nigeria earlier this month. Nigeria hasn't had a confirmed case of Ebola since the end of August.
Back in Texas another school district won't allow a teacher to return because he, or she, had taken a "safari" vacation in Tanzania. Tanzania, while in Africa, is about 3,000 miles away from what is now being called "the Ebola zone." That's roughly the same distance which separates Portland, ME and San Diego, CA.
Yes, you can sue a politician, a police department, a city, or a state. If your lawyer is good enough you might even win.
However, the third and final lesson for Kaci Hickox this week is, you can't take panic to court and even if you could, you'd find the jury pool hopelessly contaminated.
It may not be constitutional and it certainly isn't scientific, but it is the truth.
sic vita est