Legal action to force Ebola quarantine: Really?

ebola4Kaci Hickox went for a bike ride today. Big news, right? She was followed by a phalanx of reporters and photographers, so there must have been something to it.

The Maine nurse has already thumbed her nose at one governor, Chris Christie in New Jersey, who tried to force her into an involuntary quarantine following her return from West Africa, where she helped treat Ebola patients.

Now Maine Gov. Paul LePage is saying he is prepared to use “the full extent of authority allowable by law” to get Hickox to comply with that state’s quarantine order.

“Maine statutes provide robust authority to the State to use legal measures to address threats to public health,” a press release from LePage’s office issued Thursday reads in part, without going into specifics as to what kind of authority the state could have over a private citizen in this situation.

Hickox has not been diagnosed with Ebola, but that seems to be immaterial as the two governors, the Centers for Disease Control and state health officials have been falling over themselves to try to appear to be doing everything they can to prevent the spread of a disease that has seen a grand total of two people stricken inside the U.S. borders.

Constitutional rights be damned, right?

“In times like this, it is of utmost importance that the government remain transparent and even-handed and avoid overreaction,” ACLU of Maine Executive Director Alison Beyea said. “Extreme measures like mandatory quarantines and police intervention raise serious concerns about government overreach, not to mention frighten the public.”

The frightening the public role has been better played by the news media, with endless stories on the 24-hour news channels about the two Ebola cases contracted in the U.S., with the suits only doing their best to look like they’re on top of things.

More than 50,000 people a year die from the flu and pneumonia: quarantine folks who have those ailments, and the country will be a lot better off, but then we’d might as well close down offices, stores and schools for the duration of the viral season.

So, no, we’ll just pretend to take action when it’s Ebola, look tough, threaten the constitutional rights of a stubborn lady from crazy Maine, and accede to giving away even more of our inalienable rights.

– Column by Chris Graham

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