Negotiations with nurse Kaci Hickox, who refuses to be quarantined after treating Ebola patients in West Africa, have "failed" and the governor of Maine will now "exercise the full extent of his authority," according to a statement from the governor's office.
Gov. Paul LePage didn't say whether that meant getting a court order to enforce Hickox's quarantine or forcing her to take an Ebola blood test. Earlier today, LePage indicated to ABC News that he would abandon his demand that Hickox remain under quarantine if she would agree to take a blood test for the lethal virus.
"I was ready and willing -- and remain ready and willing -- to reasonably address the needs of healthcare workers meeting guidelines to assure the public health is protected," LePage said.
The governor made his comment after Hickox defiantly challenged demands that she remain quarantined by leaving her home in Fort Kent this morning for a bike ride with her boyfriend. She was trailed by a police car as she rode.
While Hickox was pedaling, attorneys for the state of Maine went to Superior Court seeking a judge’s permission to give Hickox a blood test for Ebola, LePage said.
“This could be resolved today,” the governor said. “She has been exposed and she’s not cooperative, so force her to take a test. It’s so simple.”
Medical experts have said that an Ebola test would only be positive if someone were symptomatic, and could register a negative result if the amount of Ebola virus in the blood hadn’t reached a detectable level.
LePage's office later put out a statement saying negotiations with Hickox had failed and the governor will now “exercise the full extent of his authority allowable by law.”
"Maine statutes provide robust authority to the state to use legal measures to address threats to public health," the statement said.
It added, "Specifics of the process or steps being taken by the state at this time may not be discussed publicly due to the confidentially requirements in law."
The governor said he has a state police car stationed outside Hickox's home and that she has the town "scared to death." Fort Kent has a “little rural hospital and if she goes in there she shuts down the whole community,” the governor said.
Hickox, 33, went on her bike ride after vowing Wednesday night she wasn't willing to "stand here and have my civil rights violated."
The nurse, who had been treating Ebola patients in Sierra Leone for Doctors Without Borders, said she was fighting for her rights as well as other health care workers who will be returning from the Ebola hot zone in West Africa. She said that Doctors Without Borders told her another 20 health care workers will be coming home in the next month.
"Most aid workers who come home just want to see their family and have a sort of normal life," she said Wednesday night. "I'm fighting for something other than myself. There are aid workers coming back every day."
Hickox said she isn't committed to a quarantine that isn't "scientifically valid," she said while standing alongside her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, outside her home. The quarantine demand goes beyond guidelines put out by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which indicate that she can't spread Ebola if she isn't sick, doesn't have symptoms and no one is in close contact with her bodily fluids.
"You could hug me, you could shake my hand [and] I would not give you Ebola," she said.
HIckox returned to the United States on Oct. 24, landing in Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey, where she was questioned and quarantined in an outdoor tent through the weekend despite having no symptoms.
Hickox registered a fever on an infrared thermometer at the airport, but an oral thermometer at University Hospital in Newark showed that she had no fever, she said.
After twice testing negative for Ebola, Hickox was released and returned home to Maine on Oct. 27. Maine's health commissioner announced that Maine would join the handful of states going beyond federal guidelines and asking that returning Ebola health workers be self-quarantined for 21 days.
"I will go to court to attain my freedom," Hickox told "Good Morning America" Wednesday. "I have been completely asymptomatic since I've been here. I feel absolutely great."
The CDC doesn't consider health workers who treated Ebola patients in West Africa to be at "high risk" for catching Ebola if they were wearing protective gear, according to new guidelines announced this week. Since they have "some risk," the CDC recommends that they undergo monitoring -- tracking symptoms and body temperature twice a day -- avoid public transportation and take other precautions. But the CDC doesn't require home quarantines for these workers.
Someone isn't contagious until Ebola symptoms appear, according to the CDC. And even then, transmission requires contact with bodily fluids such as blood and vomit.
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