The Obama administration has been critical of states like Maine for adopting policies that exceed federal guidelines and impose quarantines on people like Kaci Hickox, the nurse who has been asked to self-quarantine in Fort Kent until Nov. 10.

But President Obama made no mention Hickox or Ebola during his speech Thursday night in Portland to support the gubernatorial campaign of Democratic U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

However, White House reporters raised the topic in a briefing with Obama’s press secretary, Josh Earnest, on Air Force One as it flew to Maine.

Earnest said Obama had no plans to contact Hickox during his visit to Maine and had not been in touch with Gov. Paul LePage about her or Maine’s Ebola policy, according to a transcript of the briefing released by the White House.

Earnest noted that the federal Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance for dealing with health care workers who have treated patients in West Africa, and said Obama believes individual states should use science to guide their own policy making.

Earnest did not directly answer a question about whether Obama supports Hickox’s defiance of Maine’s requirement that she voluntarily quarantine herself for 21 days. Nor did he answer another question about whether Obama felt Maine’s more restrictive policy isn’t science-based.


“What I would say is that the president believes that the state can and should be responsible for setting this policy,” Earnest said. “The president believes those policies should be guided by science, but ultimately it is their decision.”

The administration’s response to Ebola has become politically charged in the closing days of the midterm elections. In a meeting at the White House with health care workers Wednesday, Obama criticized the more stringent guidelines some states have issued for preventing the spread of the disease by restricting the movements of doctors, nurses and others who have worked with patients in West Africa.

Both Democratic and Republican governors are running for reelection in several states that have adopted stricter Ebola confinement guidelines, including – in addition to Maine – Connecticut, Florida and Georgia.

Republicans, intent on making gains on Election Day next Tuesday, have seized on the federal government’s halting response in the first days of the Ebola outbreak as an example of the Obama administration’s inability to lead the nation in times of crisis.

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.