Dear Nurse Kaci Hickox,

First, welcome home. Wherever you are here in Maine – and I completely understand your reluctance to say exactly where – your situation at the moment must at least be better than the isolation tent in which you were held over the weekend outside University Hospital in Newark, New Jersey.

Second, while we’ve never met, this much I already know about you: You, madam, are a hero.

Little did you know, as you flew home from Sierra Leone last week after spending more than a month caring for victims of the deadly Ebola virus, that you would in a matter of days go from the best America has to offer to the worst public health threat since Typhoid Mary.

And little do many of your worst critics know – thanks largely to their own willful ignorance – how flat-out wrong it is to treat you, as you put it in your widely publicized essay over the weekend, “as if I was a criminal.”

I know, I know. Any person with half a brain knows you’re no criminal.


The problem is, as terror outraces the truth in this 24/7, TV-hyped Ebola saga, too many people out there are operating on half a brain. People who, rather than shut up and listen to what health experts the world over are saying, cheer on the likes of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as he defends a mandatory 21-day quarantine on any and all health workers – symptomatic or not – once they return from West Africa.

I’ll bet you thought you were finally rid of Christie when, upon his realization on Monday that you can go toe-to-toe with the best of them, he cleared you to head home to northernmost Maine.

And now that you’re back with your boyfriend and have wisely chosen to steer clear of the media scrum outside the home you two share in Fort Kent, who shows up again? That’s right, Christie himself – hitting the campaign trail on Tuesday with his old pal, Gov. Paul LePage.

Amazing. One minute Christie’s holding you in a tent in New Jersey, the next he’s stalking you all the way home to Maine. And in between, there’s Christie telling the media that once you’ve had “time to reflect,” you’ll “understand” why he, ahem, did what he had to do.

Seriously, Nurse Hickox, have you considered taking out a protection order on this guy?

Then there’s LePage, who at least had the decency to commend you for your “good work in West Africa” before warning through his spokeswoman that the state will take “appropriate action” should you violate your “voluntary” home quarantine during the next few weeks.


Appropriate action? What’s that, another tent?

Now I understand, as I’m sure you do, that the governors have a sworn duty to protect the health and welfare – OK, well, at least the health – of their citizens against all enemies at home and abroad.

I’m also sure that if you actually showed symptoms of Ebola – beyond that 100-degree forehead scan they gave you at the airport that was immediately disproved by a more accurate oral thermometer – you’d be the first to march into a negative-pressure, hermetically sealed chamber and stay put until nature runs its course.

But you’re not showing signs of anything. Thus, you’re not contagious. Thus, contrary to the social media morons who now call you a “crybaby” and tell you to go back to Africa, you currently are not a danger to anyone.

How do we know this? Because while guys like Rush Limbaugh claim that President Obama thinks Americans actually “deserve” Ebola as payback for slavery, the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday published an editorial that leaves no doubt about the need – or lack thereof – to quarantine asymptomatic health workers like yourself as you return from your missions of mercy.

The editorial states in no uncertain terms that fever “precedes the contagious stage (of Ebola), allowing workers who are unknowingly infected to identify themselves before they become a threat to their community.”


You, Nurse Hickox, have no fever. And you, more than anyone, will know what to do should that change.

The editorial by one of the nation’s leading medical journals also compares mandatory quarantines in New York and New Jersey to “driving a carpet tack with a sledgehammer. It gets the job done but overall is more destructive than beneficial.”

How so?

“These responsible, skilled health care workers who are risking their lives to help others are also helping by stemming the epidemic at its source,” the journal states. “If we add barriers making it harder for volunteers to return to their community, we are hurting ourselves. … We should be guided by the science and not the tremendous fear that this virus evokes.”

That fear is now in full bloom up in Fort Kent, where Ted Wilbur, your boyfriend, will forgo his nursing classes at the University of Maine at Fort Kent until further notice (oh, the irony) because, as one official so tactfully put it, “we don’t want hysteria on the campus.”

And where the acute fear leaves off, there’s chronic confusion: The Maine Department of Health and Human Services, its state epidemiologist and deputy state epidemiologist positions already vacant for months, announced a much-needed press conference on Maine’s Ebola protocols on Tuesday afternoon, only to cancel the event with no further explanation 45 minutes later. Then, a half-hour after that, the session was back on again – only no phone-ins, please.


What’s truly lacking here, of course, is leadership. What Maine needs most of all right now is for someone to step forward and announce that from here on in, this state’s Ebola policy will be fact-based rather than fear-driven.

Put more simply, Nurse Hickox, rather than hugging Chris Christie every chance he gets, Gov. LePage should go out of his way to embrace you.

Sorry, it just occurred to me you may not be in a hugging mood. Totally understandable.

Still, as you hunker down and try your best to ride out this nightmare, know this much: What you did over there in Sierra Leone was the definition of God’s work.

And rather than treat you like a pariah, Maine should throw you a parade.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.