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Kaci Hickox Wins in District Court

Kaci Hickox Wins in District Court

No need to stay away from crowds

A District Court judge in Maine has overturned a lower court ruling that restricted Kaci Hickox’s movements, which means that the formerly-quarantined nurse is now free to go about her business. The reason? The science on ebola transmission is apparently settled:

Judge Charles C. LaVerdiere ruled Hickox must continue daily monitoring and cooperate with health officials if she chooses to travel. The judge said there’s no need to restrict her movements because she’s not showing symptoms of Ebola.

In his ruling, the judge thanked Hickox for her service in Africa and wrote that “people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational.”

Maine Gov. Paul LePage disagreed with the judge’s decision, but said the state will follow the law…

The judge…acknowledged the gravity of restricting someone’s constitutional rights without solid science to back it up.

“The court is fully aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola,” he wrote. “The court is fully aware that people are acting out of fear and that this fear is not entirely rational.”

No doubt the judge is also fully aware of certain statements made by Nobel-prize-winning immunologist Dr. Bruce Beutler:

It may not be absolutely true that those without symptoms can’t transmit the disease, because we don’t have the numbers to back that up,” said Beutler, “It could be people develop significant viremia [where viruses enter the bloodstream and gain access to the rest of the body], and become able to transmit the disease before they have a fever, even. People may have said that without symptoms you can’t transmit Ebola. I’m not sure about that being 100 percent true. There’s a lot of variation with viruses.”

On the subject of possible further court action by the state:

The current ruling supersedes the earlier order and will be in effect until a full hearing on the issue. The court papers set no specific date for a full hearing, but they noted that such a proceeding must be held “no less than three days and not more than 10 days” from Thursday.

This is the way the argument is going to go: for the Hickox defenders, it will be “you stupid anti-science morons, we are the scientists who know best”—despite the terrible track record public health authorities have so far with regards to controlling Ebola in Africa, preventing the disease from reaching the US, and then in preventing it from being transmitted to health care workers in the US.

That said, the actual chances of Kaci Hickox having ebola are extremely slim; so I would bet a fairly large amount of money that she and/or some of her supporters will say on November 10 or even before, “See, dummyheads, she’s fine! Therefore a quarantine would have been wrong.”

This of course is an unscientific argument. A quarantine is a game of numbers. It restricts an individual, but it does not require that every restricted individual develop the disease in order to justify the imposition of the quarantine. It doesn’t even require that most of them develop the disease, or even that any of them do so. It merely requires that it is possible they might have developed it, and that the risks of spreading that disease to the public are great enough to justify a very time-limited restriction on their physical movement and freedom of association.

Returning health practitioners from ebola-affected countries all have a small but nonetheless actual possibility of infection. Because we are not certain at exactly what point a person becomes contagious, and since even health professionals are not necessarily reliable at reporting and restricting their own movements the minute they display symptoms, it could certainly be argued (scientifically and rationally) that a 21-day quarantine (or, as in this case, restriction from being around the public) could be justified.

[Neo-neocon is a writer with degrees in law and family therapy, who blogs at neo-neocon.]


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OK, THIS is why the quarantine is served OVER THERE.

No questions. You don’t get your passport until its over.

    Estragon in reply to Ragspierre. | October 31, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    OR – no one gets into this country until 42 days after leaving one of those countries. No matter where you come from or where you came from directly.


Doug Wright Old Grouchy | October 31, 2014 at 7:11 pm

Ah, but the science is settled, just ask the CDC for today’s definition of what it thinks might be the science; tomorrow’s version might be different; see definition of how Ebola spreads by droplets from sneezes, gone, old business, too inconvenient!

Besides, if Kaci sneezes, its just a cold, nothing more!

“The court is fully aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola.”

But enough about the CDC and Pres. ScamWOW…

“The court is fully aware of the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information being spread from shore to shore in our country with respect to Ebola,” he wrote.

I wonder if this know-it-all judge is also fully aware that many of “the misconceptions, misinformation, bad science and bad information” about ebola is coming from government agencies like the one that employed this idiotic nurse (and wrote the stupid and incorrect standards that led to Nurses Pham and Vinson becoming infected in Dallas) — the CDC.

But I guess we should all just shut up and defer to the same government that continually lies to us, misinforms us, scrubs incriminating websites of incorrect information, “loses” key documents, etc. Because . . . er . . . science!

Nice. Now maybe the Judge will issue a court order prohibiting ebola from spreading.

Doug Wright Old Grouchy | October 31, 2014 at 8:22 pm

Wow, settled, glad that’s resolved and peacefully too! But, science?

Guess anything goes in the land of el Jefe, The Earl of ShamWow!

Just heard a statement from a DOD spokeshole.

They WILL quarantine uniformed personnel.

The CIVILIAN DOD contractors will have the option.

Because, see, they can order the uniformed personnel into quarantine.

“Science?” you say… You keep using that term. I do not think it means what you think it means.




    Doug Wright Old Grouchy in reply to Ragspierre. | October 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    My darling and sweet wife (She made me say that!!!!) says that when Kaci, or her fellow civilian type helper, catches Ebola, we need to insist that el Jefe ShamWow give that person a hug, even a kiss on the cheeks (Don’t ask, I won’t answer!).

    Because, after all, Kaci swears, that’s her belief, that she’s healthy and not infected with Ebola. That “science” of that person is settled.

    Oh, just a minor point, this isn’t 1918 all over again, is it? Nah, couldn’t be?

    NavyMustang in reply to Ragspierre. | November 1, 2014 at 9:19 am

    It’s just a outstanding example that our “leaders” are world class wimps and couldn’t lead themselves out of a paper bag.

Kaci can believe what she wants. The judge can believe what he wants. The CDC can believe what they want.

I believe I will have another beer.

There. I win.

And when Ebola breaks out in the US, these judges and politicians will act as if they had no part in it.

These are the known facts about Ebola cases so far:

95% have presented symptoms within 21 days of contact with an infected person or material.

3% have presented symptoms within 22-42 days of contact with an infected person or material.

For 2% of those who presented symptoms, the date of contact was unknown or undetermined.

If she brings her bike onto my property, she won’t get within three feet of me or anyone else. She may be willing to take chances with my life, but is she willing to take chances with her own?

    The thing about known contact is that it’s hard to be sure the person living in Africa (where these stats were assembled) didn’t have a contact you didn’t know about. I understand the average is 7 days so 4 to 5 days must happen a lot. 21 days should handle just about everything. But that’s not really the point is it.

    When the courts view state’s rights as being far, far inferior to federal privilege, there are no state’s rights. I will not be surprised as this leads to further erosion of basic police powers.

      NavyMustang in reply to JBourque. | November 1, 2014 at 9:22 am

      I’m with you on the states rights being diluted is a very bad thing, but it has nothing to do with federal privilege. It has to do with over 300 million individual special snowflakes, each one knowing better than every other snowflake.

While she might be free to do as she pleases because of this ruling, and I just might agree that her quarantine was not warranted.

What I do disagree with is her recalcitrant pushback against what every one else in the known universe was saying.. voluntary quarantine!

Instead she willingly stoked the fears concerning the spread of the virus. And I cannot forgive her for that. She should know better than that!

This isn’t about a government restricting her freedom to move and engage in commerce. It’s about “doing the right thing”, as Spike Lee might say.

I would think that most reasonable people, having been possibly exposed to a deadly, infectious pathogen… would want to limit their activities to prevent the chance, no matter how remote, of possibly spreading that disease to others. But not Kaci! Nope… she wants to go out in public and interact with strangers as well as friends and family. It’s almost as if a virus were doing her thinking for her.

I sincerely hope Kaci is Ebola free. Unfortunately, we have no way of knowing that since Ebola testing is pretty much worthless until the virus enters the blood stream, at which point the patient is contagious. Since Kaci is all about the science, I’m sure she knows that a negative test several days after possible exposure in an asymptomatic person means absolutely nothing.

The community where this selfish witch resides has spoken. They are boycotting the businesses in her town.

neo-neocon: This of course is an unscientific argument.

Limited government means the government has the burden to prove the need to restrict someone’s freedom. That burden was not met in this case. There is no scientific support for restricting a person’s movement. However, there is scientific support for monitoring the person’s condition, which is what is happening in this case.

    Ragspierre in reply to Zachriel. | November 1, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    You are, as usual, just stupidly wrong.

    And you don’t even get the self-parody of you bloviating about “scientific support”.

    But we do, and you point at you and laugh!

    This goes against the common sence age-old practices familiar to every mother in the world. We quota teen *just in case* a person who came in contact with infected individual will develop symptoms. Once symptoms developed, it might be too late. It’s a precautionary measure to protect health and save lives.

      edgeofthesandbox: This goes against the common sence age-old practices familiar to every mother in the world.

      Actually, the age-old practice is for people to care for their family members, while village elders hunt down witches. The former is precisely what causes the spread of Ebola. As for the latter,

      “Submitted for your approval: a nation gripped by fear of an outbreak,” Stewart said as the Twilight Zone theme played behind him. “And yet all this time, the real virus outbreak menacing them was fear.”

      The modern practice is to scientifically study the disease. Some diseases are not communicable, but are due to an internal breakdown, such as diabetes. Some diseases are infectious, but not contagious, such as those spread by water or food like cholera, or by vectors like malaria. Some diseases are contagious, but only transmitted by specific mechanisms, such as by sexual contact like AIDS. Some diseases are highly contagious and can be spread through the air, such as measles, which is contagious even before symptoms appear. Fortunately, there are effective vaccines for measles, and nowadays, there is substantial herd immunity.

      Each disease requires a different approach based on a scientific understanding of the disease.

    stevewhitemd in reply to Zachriel. | November 2, 2014 at 12:31 pm

    Zach: about a century ago our country had to deal with a deadly, highly contagious, easily spread viral infection for which there was no cure. We managed to do so.

    The virus was smallpox.

    The solution was isolation, quarantine, and follow-up of all contacts.

    There was no argument about quarantine back then. You were exposed to smallpox, you were isolated for the incubation period. If you refused you were tossed into prison — in isolation of course.

    Back then the public understood that public health superseded individual rights. It does so today but the public hasn’t had to deal with a deadly viral infection in a long time, so it’s going to take some re-education.

      stevewhitemd: The solution was isolation, quarantine, and follow-up of all contacts.

      You would certainly agree that the response to disease should depend on the specifics of the disease?

      Smallpox is readily transmitted by respiratory droplets, and can be immediately transmitted upon the onset of symptoms. Consequently, smallpox has a high basic reproductive number (5-7).

      Ebola is only spread by bodily fluids. It’s human nature to help those in need, which is the primary source of transmission for Ebola. Notably, many of those infected with Ebola have been healthcare workers. This type of transmission is fairly easy to control.