Has a person who did something undeniably brave and dangerous in an effort to save the lives of others earned the right to henceforth act like a crackpot? Watching the bizarre saga of nurse Kaci Hickox, I have my doubts.
Hickox, you've surely heard by now, is the Doctors Without Borders nurse placed in mandatory quarantine in New Jersey after spending a month in West Africa treating victims of the Ebola outbreak. She tested negative in a preliminary test for the disease but a forehead scan showed a temperature of 101, which Hickox attributed to her anger over her confinement. Other readings found her temperature to be normal.
Hickox alleged she was treated shabbily in quarantine, even claiming that her "basic human rights" were violated, and threatened legal action. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie quickly backpedaled and allowed Hickox to leave for her home in Maine, where she remains in state-ordered quarantine.
While Hickox has surely earned the right for her views to be taken seriously, she seems to erode that every time she expresses an opinion. Appearing on CNN this past Sunday, Hickox reinforced this impression when interviewed by Candy Crowley --
CROWLEY: You have been over in Sierra Leone. I think everyone would salute someone who really does put their life on the line to go over and help others and we have heard over and over again while you have been away how vital it is for all countries to send workers, doctors, nurses, other health care workers to fight this disease where it is in order to, you know, save those countries as well as protect the rest of the world.
But understanding the doctor who is now in quarantine in New York City was home seven or eight days before he spiked a bit of a fever, and then was put into isolation, do you understand the need of governors, be they from New Jersey or New York or Illinois to say, we can't take this risk that somebody is out there with a fever, or will spike a fever eight or nine days after they arrive. We need to make sure that they're in isolation until we know they are past the danger zone. Do you understand that psyche?
HICKOX: I completely don't understand it. I really, it is completely non-understandable to me. It is not based on any clear public health evidence and is not the recommendation of public health and medical experts at this point. You know, I think we have to be very careful about letting politicians make medical and public health decisions and all of the evidence about Ebola shows that if you are not symptomatic, you are not infectious.
Right ... and a person could be infected with Ebola for weeks without being aware of it, and then become symptomatic, for example, while bowling or riding the subway or attending a pro football game with 60,000 other people. And did I mention that one of Ebola's symptoms is projectile vomiting?
As for Hickox's suggestion that health experts should decide public health policy instead of politicians, should those be elected experts ...?
Though the CNN interview was hampered by a poor cell connection, Crowley did manage to mention the death of Thomas Duncan at a Dallas hospital as part of the initial bungled response to Ebola in the US --
CROWLEY: There is this feeling that the federal government and the doctors who advise the federal government don't actually know how to contain this and I think it is out of that concern from the public thinking, wait a second, they told us it couldn't come here, they told us we could deal with it, and it hasn't always come to be so. They've had to change, as you know, some of their protocols in dealing with it for health care workers, etc. So I think that is somewhat pushing this drive.
Crowley then cited an op-ed Hickox wrote for the Dallas Morning News after her return from Africa, with Hickox writing this --
I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear, and most frightening, quarantine.
"Tell me what's frightening about a quarantine," Crowley asked. Hickox's response was persuasive -- if you are in favor of quarantining health workers returning from West Africa --
HICKOX: You know, for me it's two things and I've experienced it, so unfortunately I think I can say these two things pretty confidently. ... For instance, are all the workers that are taking care of me being quarantined? They're seeing me in their (protective gear) and then they're going home to their families. So the quarantine doesn't, in how it's being carried out, doesn't make scientific sense. It's not evidence-based. And the second thing is, it's really inhumane. I just came back from one of the most difficult months of my life and I am completely asymptomatic and no one knows, no one can predict if I will develop Ebola or not in the next 21 days, and most aid workers who come back will not develop Ebola. So to quarantine everyone in case, you know, when you cannot predict who may develop Ebola or not, and to make me stay for 21 days, not be with my family, to put me through this emotional and physical stress, is completely unacceptable.
The next time Christie is called upon to defend quarantining Hickox, he might want to paraphrase her remarks here -- I made the decision I did because, as Ms. Hickox herself said on CNN, no one can predict if she will develop Ebola in the next 21 days. We certainly hope and pray this doesn't happen, but you cannot predict who may develop Ebola after they've spent weeks treating Ebola patients.
Hickox's remarks, helpfully condensed -- when in doubt, let 'em out.
That op-ed (ghost)written by Hickox for the Dallas Morning News reads as you'd expect from a left-wing activist and Obama supporter --
I am a nurse who has just returned to the U.S. after working with Doctors Without Borders in Sierra Leone -- an Ebola-affected country. I have been quarantined in New Jersey. This is not a situation I would wish on anyone, and I am scared for those who will follow me.
I am scared about how health care workers will be treated at airports when they declare that they have been fighting Ebola in West Africa. I am scared that, like me, they will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear, and most frightening, quarantine.
I arrived at the Newark International Airport around 1 p.m. on Friday, after a grueling two-day journey from Sierra Leone. I walked up to the immigration official at the airport and was greeted with a big smile and a "hello."
I told him that I had traveled ...
Notice a pattern? Aye yai I ...
More disturbing is this -- "I am scared that they, like me, will arrive and see a frenzy of disorganization, fear, and most frightening, quarantine."
That is the most frightening thing to a person just back from the charnel house that is West Africa in the throes of its worst Ebola outbreak? That you might spend the next three weeks in a tent watching Netflix?
Would not a normal person in this situation be far more fearful of becoming deathly ill? Worse still, becoming deathly ill and spreading a dreaded disease in one of the most densely populated places on earth? That's what would scare me. Then again, I'm not a health expert.
Kudos to Hickox for her work and may she be rewarded with many years of good health -- but the more she keeps talking, the more she risks being seen as unhinged and not a hero.