Maine’s Ebola Sense

Editorial of The New York Sun

The first thing we have to say about Maine’s legal test in respect of the Ebola quarantine is that Kaci Hickox is one lucky nurse. If we had to sit out the incubation period for some horrible disease, the place we’d like to do it is Aroostook County. This glorious wilderness, dappled with lovely lakes, small towns, quiet roads, and sensible people is the kind of place about which those who toil in the big city can only dream. We’d bring an easel and some oil paints and look at nothing but fog and forest until the danger of fever had passed.

On the merits, we’re on the side of Governor Paul LePage. He has 1.3 million Mainers (and Ms. Hickox) as his responsibility. It is important that someone is making the case for aggressive monitoring — and that he go to court to do the best he can in the face of a restive nurse. People are overwhelmingly in favor of this kind of response. This has to do with the fact that the American people are not dumb. They are fully aware of how difficult it is to transmit or to catch Ebola. They also know how horrible Ebola is.

This is why Mr. LePage’s willingness to chance a defeat in court in order to protect the public is so important. The left wing critics are already suggesting that he met some kind of major rebuff from the district judge at Fort Kent. But the order by Chief Judge Charles LaVerdiere is no small matter. It may have lifted the threat of an in-home quarantine but, in no uncertain terms, requires Ms. Hickox to “participate in” and “cooperate with” Direct Active Monitoring. She has to coordinate her movements with the authorities and submit to their orders if symptoms appear.

All this puts the state in position to swoop in with more serious measures if its own monitors detect symptoms. Given the nurse’s behavior so far, that seems the least the court could do. It was less than the governor wanted, but all the more admirable was his statement that he will abide by the law. He made it clear that even though the nurse feels the public’s fears are irrational does not lift from her the burden of respecting those fears. It was a sage point, as was his order that all filings, orders, and hearings in the matter would be open to the public.

One of the startling features of the Maine case is that it has come to a head just days from when voters go to the polls in one of the closest gubernatorial races in the country. We haven’t been to Maine this fall, but our impression is that the two challengers to Mr. LePage — Democrat Mike Michaud and Independent Eliot Cutler — have hung back from criticizing the governor on this case. That is a sign that they understand the seriousness of a governor’s responsibility in a situation like this. It’s an instance in which Maine is leading the nation in fashioning a common sense approach to a national problem.

—Seth Lipsky

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