Nurse Kaci Hickox’s 15 Minutes Are Up and She Is Moving

All she had to do was wait 21 days to make sure that she was clear. That was ALL.

Instead, Nurse Kaci Hickox dug her heels in, insisted that she wasn’t sick, and that the CDC’s timeline on incubation periods – which the Army is enforcing on soldiers returning from Ebola-infected countries – shouldn’t apply to her, because she KNEW that she wasn’t sick.

Well, the 21 days are up on Monday, and Hickox will probably be right.

Kaci Hickox with boyfriend Ted Wilbur, outside their home in Maine
Kaci Hickox with boyfriend Ted Wilbur, outside their home in Maine

She will also be moving away from the state of Maine with her boyfriend, as her 15 minutes of fame and notoriety has pretty much cost both of them a lot of goodwill and general disapproval from the public.

Her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, withdrew from an accelerated nursing program at the University of Maine at Fort Kent on Friday and said the couple will stay through Monday, after which a state court order expires and Hickox will no longer have to submit to daily health monitoring, inform state officials of travel plans and let them know if her health changes.

Wilbur said the couple will depart Fort Kent in the middle of next week, drop off some items in storage in southern Maine, and then leave the state.

“We’re going to try to get our lives back on track,” Wilbur said Friday night.

Now, the reasons behind Hickox taking this “stand” on refusing the quarantine are still muddled – especially considering that she is a CDC employee, and somehow got a lawyer with quite powerful ties immediately representing her. But even if her entire fight against the quarantine was an orchestrated show – and one that the media got to pin on Governor Chris Christie – no one seemed to inform Hickox just how badly she was coming off in the court of public opinion. Because even while media like Saturday Night Live was mocking Governor Christie, they raked her over the coals as well.

And while the media poked fun at Christie, they didn’t seem to care over much that Governor Paul LePage of Maine (who just won reelection on Tuesday) also took Hickox to court to impose the quarantine. Hickox herself, after making a big show of breaking quarantine, seemed to realize just what people were thinking when she announced that she would stay out of “crowded public places.”

But the damage had already been done. Her boyfriend, Ted Wilbur, claims that he is withdrawing from the University of Maine nursing program because he had to agree “under duress” to stay away from campus while Hickox (who he is living with) was in the 21 day monitoring period, and that other students did not want him there.

Wilbur said he withdrew from the nursing program because university officials – who told him there had been threats against him – refused to communicate to students that any harassment, threats or demonstrations against Wilbur would not be tolerated.

Wilbur said school officials pointed out that those acts were prohibited, and said they wouldn’t act ahead of Wilbur’s return to school to reinforce the prohibitions.

Wilbur was concerned about the threats and also about potential silent protests, such as students getting up and leaving a room when he entered.

Now, while I don’t agree with or condone threats (and hopefully any that threatened danger were acted on by the university immediately), if he is concerned about being shunned by others, well… none of us are ever free from the consequences of our choices. Wilbur, at least, has a chance of disappearing back into anonymity. Hickox, on the other hand, has no chance of that at all. Every time a future employer Googles her name, guess what they will find?

21 days. That was all that was being asked of her. She could have complained, she could have protested, and she could have done all of that while sitting in a tent in New Jersey. After all, she had the media’s complete attention.

But now, she will have to live with the stigma of her actions a lot longer than those three weeks that seemed too long and arduous for her to handle. I wonder if she now thinks public opinion and her professional reputation was worth leaving New Jersey and going on a bike ride in Maine. I’m glad that she is clear of Ebola. It’s a shame that she was a willing party in playing a round of Russian roulette with the American public’s health.

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Ava Gardner