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Nurse says she plans to end voluntary quarantine

FORT KENT, Maine (AP) — A nurse who treated Ebola patients in West Africa said Wednesday that she plans to stop quarantining herself in her home in rural Maine, signaling a potential showdown with state police monitoring her movements and state officials preparing to legally enforce the quarantine.

Kaci Hickox told NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America" that she was abiding by the state's voluntary quarantine by having no contact with people Tuesday and Wednesday. But she said she will defy the state if the policy isn't changed by Thursday.

"I don't plan on sticking to the guidelines," Hickox said on "Today." ''I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me even though I am in perfectly good health."

Her lawyer told The Associated Press that Hickox, who's shown no symptoms of Ebola, isn't willing to cooperate further unless the state lifts "all or most of the restrictions." The governor said Wednesday he was seeking legal authority to keep her in isolation.

"We hoped that the health care worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols, but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols. We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community," said Gov. Paul LePage, who canceled his campaign events to follow the developments.

Hickox, who volunteered in Sierra Leone 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.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were sharply criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines as Hickox spent the weekend in a tent. Now in Maine, Hickox arrived Tuesday night at the off-campus home of her boyfriend, who's a senior nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

"I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," she said.

Across the country, litigation seems unavoidable as health officials grapple with how to manage public health concerns once Ebola reached the U.S.

Some states, including Maine, are going above and beyond guidelines from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which recommend only regular monitoring — not quarantine — for health care workers who have come into contact with Ebola patients.

LePage commended all health care workers who have volunteered in Africa to treat Ebola patients and said he had hoped Hickox would voluntarily comply with Maine's restrictions.

"While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state," he said.

Norman Siegel, one of Hickox's lawyers, said he remained hopeful the state will ease its restrictions. If not, then the state would have to go to court, and he would challenge the state's action.

"Our position is very simple. There's no justification for the state of Maine to quarantine her. She has no symptoms and therefore she's not contagious. And she's not at a risk to the public or the health and welfare of people in the state of Maine," he said.

The leader of Maine's Roman Catholics weighed in on the fight, urging calm and reason and lauding Hickox's bravery.

"We need to balance our desire to protect ourselves and those we love with the obligation to treat Ms. Hickox with the same compassion and support that she displayed in West Africa, rather than with fear and rejection," Bishop Robert F. Deeley said.

Hagel approves 21-day Ebola quarantine for troops

WASHINGTON (AP) — Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Wednesday approved a recommendation by military leaders that all U.S. troops returning from Ebola response missions in West Africa be kept in supervised isolation for 21 days.

The move goes beyond precautions recommended by the Obama administration for civilians, although President Barack Obama has made clear he feels the military's situation is different from that of civilians, in part because troops are not in West Africa by choice.

Hagel said he acted in response to a recommendation sent to him Tuesday by Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on behalf of the heads of each of the military services. They cited numerous factors, including concerns among military families and the communities from which troops are deploying for the Ebola response mission.

In explaining his decision, Hagel noted that the military has more people in Africa helping with the Ebola effort than any other segment of the U.S. government.

"This is also a policy that was discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women, and they very much wanted a safety valve on this," he said at a public forum in Washington.

Just over 1,000 U.S. troops are in Liberia and Senegal supporting efforts to combat the virus. Their numbers could grow to 3,900 under current plans. None are intended to be in contact with Ebola patients.

The Pentagon has yet to work out details of how the quarantine-like program will work. Hagel said he directed the Joint Chiefs to provide him within 15 days a detailed implementation plan.

As originally envisioned, Pentagon policy called for troops returning to their home bases from Ebola response missions to undergo temperature checks twice a day for 21 days to ensure they are free of Ebola symptoms and would not be permitted to travel widely. But they were not to be quarantined and kept from contact with others.

The Army, however, acting on its own this week, put a small number of returning soldiers in a 21-day quarantine in Italy. That group was the first to return from West Africa after Ebola duty.

Hagel said he believed the 21-day supervised isolation, which he called "controlled monitoring," is a prudent measure. He ordered the service chiefs to conduct within 45 days a review of this new regimen.

"This review will offer a recommendation on whether or not such controlled monitoring should continue based on what we learn and observe from the initial waves of personnel returning from Operation United Assistance," Hagel's spokesman, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said in a written statement, using the official name of the military mission against Ebola in Africa.

"The secretary believes these initial steps are prudent given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force," Kirby added. "The secretary's highest priority is the safety and security of our men and women in uniform and their families."

Governor: Maine will seek to enforce quarantine

FORT KENT, Maine (AP) — The governor's office and state health officials are seeking legal authority to enforce the quarantine of a nurse who treated Ebola patients in Africa and says there's no justification to keep her in isolation, Gov. Paul LePage said Wednesday.

State police are monitoring the Fort Kent home where nurse Kaci Hickox is under voluntary quarantine, LePage added. That was to ensure her protection as well as the safety of the community, he said.

Hickox told NBC's "Today" show and ABC's "Good Morning America" that she has so far abided by the state's voluntary quarantine. She said she had no contact with anyone Tuesday and will have no human contact again Wednesday. But she said she doesn't plan to cooperate after that.

"I don't plan on sticking to the guidelines," Hickox said on "Today." ''I remain appalled by these home quarantine policies that have been forced upon me even though I am in perfectly good health."

Her lawyer told The Associated Press that Hickox isn't willing to cooperate further unless the state lifts "all or most of the restrictions," which LePage said was disappointing.

"We hoped that the healthcare worker would voluntarily comply with these protocols, but this individual has stated publicly she will not abide by the protocols," LePage said in a statement. "We are very concerned about her safety and health and that of the community."

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.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo were sharply criticized for ordering mandatory quarantines for health care workers like Hickox who've shown no symptoms of Ebola. Now in Maine, Hickox arrived Tuesday night at the off-campus home of her boyfriend, who's a senior nursing student at the University of Maine at Fort Kent.

"I am not going to sit around and be bullied by politicians and forced to stay in my home when I am not a risk to the American public," she said.

Norman Siegel, one of her lawyers, said he remains hopeful the state will ease its restrictions. If not, then the state would have to go to court, and Siegel would challenge the state's action, he said.

"Our position is very simple. There's no justification for the state of Maine to quarantine her. She has no symptoms and therefore she's not contagious. And she's not at a risk to the public or the health and welfare of people in the state of Maine," he said.

LePage said he commended all health care workers who have volunteered in Africa to treat Ebola patients. He said he had hoped Hickox would voluntarily comply with Maine's restrictions, which go beyond Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that recommend only monitoring for health care workers who have treated Ebola patients but show now symptoms.

"While we certainly respect the rights of one individual, we must be vigilant in protecting 1.3 million Mainers, as well as anyone who visits our great state," he said.

Sole ND abortion clinic halts medication abortions

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — The director of North Dakota's sole abortion provider says medication abortions have ceased at the Fargo clinic following a North Dakota Supreme Court ruling.

Red River Women's Clinic director Tammi Kromenaker tells The Associated Press she directed her staff Wednesday to halt medication abortions, though surgical abortions are still being done.

She says about eight women had been scheduled for medical abortions this week.

The state's high court issued a ruling late Tuesday upholding a 2011 state law that limits the use of abortion-inducing drugs.

North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem says the clinic had two weeks to end the abortions, which involve prescribing drugs to terminate pregnancies. But Kromenaker says she immediately stopped such abortions because she didn't want to put her staff at risk of legal action.

Hagel orders quarantine for US troops returning from West Africa

Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel on Wednesday ordered a 21-day quarantine for all US troops returning from West Africa, calling it a "prudent" measure to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus.

The move means the military is adopting much stricter measures than those in place for civilian health workers sent by the US government to Liberia and Senegal, and the order came amid a debate about how to treat Americans who may have come in contact with those suffering from the deadly disease.

"The secretary believes these initial steps are prudent, given the large number of military personnel transiting from their home base and West Africa, and the unique logistical demands and impact this deployment has on the force," his spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The quarantine was being introduced even though officials say the soldiers will be focused on building medical clinics and will have no contact with those infected with the virus.

But Hagel said the decision was taken partly because military families urged the quarantine.

"This is also a policy that was discussed in great detail by the communities, by the families of our military men and women, and they very much wanted a safety valve on this," Hagel said at an event in the US capital, the "Washington Ideas Forum."

The US Army had already ordered a 21-day quarantine for its troops coming back from Liberia and Senegal. Hagel's order extended the measure to all branches of the military.

Under the decision, Hagel asked the chiefs of the armed services to deliver a detailed plan within 15 days on how to carry out the quarantine. And he directed the chiefs to review the new regimen within 45 days and advise whether to continue with the measures.

Medical experts have sharply criticized recent strict quarantine orders adopted in New York and New Jersey as based on politics rather than science.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday urged Americans to respond to the virus with "facts" rather than "fear."

But Obama endorsed the military's approach, saying the armed forces presented a "different situation" than civilian health workers.

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