NEWARK, N.J. — New Jersey agreed to put in place new rules regarding quarantines after a nurse who was quarantined in 2014 after working in Sierra Leone during the deadly Ebola outbreak filed a lawsuit against the state, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of New Jersey.
In addition to procedural protections, the changes will ensure that a person is quarantined only when it’s medically necessary, under the settlement, which was announced Thursday by the ACLU and private attorneys for Kaci Hickox.
Hickox was working with Doctors Without Borders in the west African nation during the Ebola outbreak. She was stopped when she arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport on Oct. 24, 2014, and quarantined. She later tested negative for Ebola and was allowed to go to Maine, where she lived at the time. She now lives in Oregon.
“We’ve achieved what was needed: procedures that will ensure that no one will have to go through what I experienced in New Jersey, and that no one will be quarantined unless it is medically necessary to do so,” said Hickox. “The settlement upholds the principles and values of liberty and due process.”
The ACLU said that after Hickox was detained at the airport, she was held in a field tent in an unheated parking garage at a Newark hospital. She didn’t have access to a shower and had to ask for extra blankets, before she ultimately was released and allowed to return home, the ACLU said. Hickox filed a lawsuit in 2015, challenging her detention.
“The settlement of Kaci Hickox’s lawsuit creates a new ‘Bill of Rights’ for individuals subject to possible quarantine or isolation in New Jersey and sets a model for other states to replicate,” said attorney Norman Siegel, who began representing Hickox when she was still confined to the tent.
In a statement to NJ.com, state Attorney General Christopher Porrino said the “supplemental protocols” that were reached as part of the settlement were “consistent with existing law and regulations.”
“This outcome is further verification of the appropriateness of the State’s Ebola response,” Porrino said.
The outbreak of Ebola, which is spread through contact with an infected person’s bodily fluids, killed thousands of people in Africa. Only a few people were treated for Ebola in the United States.