NORTH TEXAS (CBS 11 NEWS) – A University of Texas at Arlington alumnus is out of isolation for the Ebola virus. Nurse Kaci Hickox was released from a New Jersey hospital after the federal government pressured her release. The state of New Jersey wanted to keep her quarantined for 21 days.
Hickox returned to the states over the weekend from doing humanitarian work with Ebola patients in West Africa. A portable thermometer at Newark Liberty International Airport showed her with a fever, hours after her return from West Africa. She was immediately placed in isolation.
Federal officials worried forced isolation would create a chilling effect on doctors and nurses volunteering to help those in West Africa.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Tom Frieden addressed the issue in a news conference phone call on Monday. “We do have to recognize that if we do things that make it very difficult for people to come back, if we turn them into pariahs instead of recognizing the heroic work that they’re doing a couple of things may happen that none of us want to happen.”
“Things” like going into forced isolation but not actually being ill.
Now, Kaci Hickox is caught in the debate. She spent her formative years in Rio Vista, in Johnson County. Leon Hickox, Kaci’s father, declined to be interviewed Monday but repeated his daughter’s sentiments over the weekend… that isolation and quarantine was really not necessary.
A local bar and grill owner told CBS 11 News his customers are split about 50-50 over whether the quarantine was needed.
But is what New Jersey did legal?
According to Fort Worth attorney Jerry Loftin, “It’s legal. The U.S. Constitution provides for the legality of it.” He said the country has imposed medical quarantines before, like the Spanish Flu Pandemic of a century ago.
It’s in the General Powers clause,” according to Loftin. “The federal government through the Constitution has it. The individual states can do it. This would shock you, but even cities in some instances have authority to do things.”
But Loftin said the lines are drawn around specific medical emergencies. “There exists within the authority of a governor, of a state, of a city… to do certain things. If it proved to be, ‘Well, we’re going to put all the Democrats in quarantine to stop them from voting,’ that’s a different matter.”
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