FORT KENT— A nurse who was confined against her will at a New Jersey hospital after treating Ebola patients in West Africa is seeking time to decompress at an undisclosed location in Maine, her lawyer said Tuesday.
Kaci Hickox’s partner, a nursing student, has opted to stay away from the University of Maine at Fort Kent to be with her, and they were staying outside the town, a university official said.
“At this point, he has made a decision. He has decided to take a break from campus,” said Ray Phinney, associate dean of student life and development. “We don’t know exactly when to expect him back.”
There was disagreement Tuesday over Hickox’s status. The state said she agreed to be quarantined, but her lawyer Steve Hyman insisted there’s no quarantine.
Hyman said the state should follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that require only monitoring, not quarantine, for health care workers who show no symptoms after treating Ebola patients.
He said he expected Hickox to remain in seclusion for the “next day or so” while he works with Maine health officials.
State officials shed no light on the matter. There was no clarification from the Maine Department of Health and Human Services or from the governor’s office.
Hickox, who volunteered in Africa with Doctors Without Borders, was the first person forced into New Jersey’s mandatory quarantine for people arriving at Newark Liberty International Airport from three West African countries.
She spent the weekend in a quarantine tent despite her objections over her treatment at the airport.
Hickox said she never had symptoms and tested negative for Ebola in a preliminary evaluation, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were sharply criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines.
In Maine, the state also said there would be a quarantine for Hickox. At first, the quarantine was made to sound as if it was mandatory, but the state later said it was voluntary.
Gov. Paul LePage’s spokeswoman said the administration will take “appropriate action” if Hickox doesn’t comply with the in-home voluntary quarantine. She declined to say what that meant.
Ebola, which is spread through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person, has killed thousands of people in Africa, but only four people have been diagnosed with it in the United States. People can’t be infected just by being near someone who is sick with Ebola. People aren’t contagious unless they’re sick.
The news of Hickox’s return to Maine swept across the town of Fort Kent and the university campus, which has 1,400 students. Some students vowed to boycott if Hickox’s boyfriend continued to take classes.
The university said it considered several options for the senior nursing student, including allowing him to stay in on-campus housing and continue to take classes.
But that was unnecessary because he opted to be with Hickox and to stay away from campus and to take online classes, Phinney said.
Hickox was staying in touch with health officials, but her location was a mystery.
“She is seeking privacy and a little time to decompress,” Hyman said.