Chris Christie's stunning Ebola reversal: NJ to release quarantined nurse after heated criticism

"I don't think he's a doctor"

Published October 27, 2014 1:56PM (EDT)

  (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)
(AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie along with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo have received widespread criticism for mandatory quarantines for anyone returning from West Africa after coming in contact with someone infected with Ebola.

On Monday morning, New Jersey's Department of Health announced that it would release Kaci Hickox, a nurse who had been placed under quarantine despite being asymptomatic after returning from West Africa.

"After consulting with her, she has requested transport to Maine, and that transport will be arranged via a private carrier not via mass transit or commercial aircraft. She will remain subject to New Jersey's mandatory quarantine order while in New Jersey. Health officials in Maine have been notified of her arrangements and will make a determination under their own laws on her treatment when she arrives," the department said in a statement.

Hickox had done a phone interview with CNN's Candy Crowley on "State of the Union" on Sunday and emphasized that she took issue with Christie's diagnosis of Hickox as "obviously ill."

"First of all, I don't think he's a doctor; secondly, he's never laid eyes on me; and thirdly, I've been asymptomatic since I've been here," Hickox said. "There always needs to be a balance, because I also want to be treated with compassion and humanity. I don't feel like I have been treated that way in the past three days."

On Sunday evening, Cuomo gave in to massive resistance to the mandated quarantine by clarifying that medical workers who exhibited no symptoms would be permitted to complete their quarantine period at home and would be paid for lost income.

The New York Times reports that Christie then followed suit:

It was the second striking shift in Mr. Cuomo's public posture on the Ebola crisis in 72 hours; after urging calm on Thursday night, then joining Mr. Christie to highlight the risks of lax policy on Friday, Mr. Cuomo on Sunday night appeared to try to dial back his rhetoric and stake out a middle ground.

He said his decision balanced public safety with the need to avoid deterring medical professionals from volunteering in West Africa. "My No. 1 job is to protect the people of New York, and this does that," he said. Those quarantined at home will be visited twice a day by local authorities, he said. Family members will be allowed to stay, and friends may visit with the approval of health officials...

After Mr. Cuomo's announcement, Mr. Christie issued a statement saying that, under protocols announced on Wednesday, New Jersey residents not displaying symptoms would also be allowed to quarantine in their homes.

Christie had become increasingly upset with the lax attitude toward medical professionals who had been in direct contact with the Ebola virus, in particular, NBC's Dr. Nancy Snyderman who left her home to pick up food.

At a press conference on Saturday, Christie said he was "sorry if in any way [Hickox] was inconvenienced, but inconvenience that could occur from having folks that are symptomatic and ill out amongst the public is a much, much greater concern of mine."

The strict protocol comes after Dr. Craig Spencer, a doctor who had recently returned from Guinea to his Manhattan apartment, tested positive for the virus.

Mayor Bill de Blasio expressed his disapproval regarding Hickox's treatment: "This hero was treated with disrespect and was not given a clear direction. We owe her better than that, and all the people who do this work, better than that."

By Joanna Rothkopf

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Andrew Cuomo Chris Christie Ebola Kaci Hickox Quarantine