ARCHIVAL (CBS, THIS MORNING, 1-31-20):NEWS REPORT: The World Health Organization has now declared a global health emergency.
NARRATION: The U.S. government and a handful of states are taking a dramatic step to prevent the spread of coronavirus from China quarantine.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS, 2-1-20):NEWS REPORT: Any U.S. citizen who has been to the epicenter will face a mandatory 14 day quarantine.
NARRATION: The measures stem from the concern that people without symptoms could transmit the virus. But any quarantine is a balancing act between public health and individual rights. That was the case in 2014, with another deadly virus.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS, 8-1-14):NEWS REPORT: World health experts said today that the Ebola in West Africa is out of control.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 2014):NEWS REPORT: It is the worst Ebola outbreak in history.
NARRATION: To prevent Ebola from spreading into the U.S., public health officials were screening people at airports. And the state of New Jersey invoked its power to quarantine anyone who might have been exposed to the virus. Nurse Kaci Hickox had been working with Ebola patients.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS,10-25-14):NEWS REPORT: Yesterday New Jersey isolated an American nurse who returned from Sierra Leone. Kaci Hickox is now being kept in a tent outside a New Jersey Hospital.
NARRATION: But Hickox objected to the quarantine, and contacted attorney Norman Siegel.
NORMAN SIEGEL (CIVIL LIBERTIES ATTORNEY): She had no symptoms. And, for at least Ebola, if someone doesnt have the symptoms, theyre not infectious. And, so, the question then became, Why are they keeping her?
NARRATION: New Jersey health officials were concerned that Hickox could still go on to develop the illness during Ebolas 21-day incubation period, and become contagious.
ARCHIVAL (WCBS NEWS, 10-24-14):GOVERNOR CHRIS CHRISTIE: I was very clear on Wednesday that we would take in New Jersey whatever steps were necessary to protect the public health.
NARRATION: Complicating matters, Hickox had at one point showed signs of a possible fever, but she then tested negative for Ebola. Confident she wasnt contagious, Hickox took her case public.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 10-26-14):KACI HICKOX (ON THE PHONE): I have been asymptomatic since Ive been here. I feel physically completely strong, and emotionally completely exhausted. I feel like my basic human rights have been violated.
ARCHIVAL (KPIX, 10-27-14):NEWS REPORT: Nurse Kaci Hickox is headed home today after testing negative for Ebola.
NORMAN SIEGEL: And the argument that is given is that you balance the individual right of liberty versus public safety concern. And the public safety concern wins out. I dont agree with that, especially in the Kaci Hickox situation.
NARRATION: Three days after arriving in New Jersey, Kaci Hickox was released on the condition that she would be driven out of the state and return home to Maine.
NORMAN SIEGEL: Maybe the thinking was, Okay, shes out of our hair. Maine, you deal with her. And then we had the same problem in Maine.
ARCHIVAL (CBS NEWS,10-29-14):KACI HICKOX: You know, Im thankful to be out of the tent in Newark, but I have found myself in yet another prison, just in a different environment.
NARRATION: Hickoxs lawyers went to court to block Maine from forcing her into quarantine. In the meantime, the state told her to stay at the house she shared with her partner.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 10-30-14):KACI HICKOX: We have to make decisions on science, you know, I am completely healthy. You know you could hug me, you could shake my hand, there is now way I would give you ebola. I dont want to hurt anyone in the public but I dont think this is an acceptable line to be drawing.
NORMAN SIEGEL: We, we talked about Is there something you can do to show that youre really not a threat to anyone, but yet not create a panic situation?
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 10-30-14):NEWS REPORT: A bike ride making headlines
NORMAN SIEGAL: So, they took their bikes out. They went off into the wilderness. The only people that followed them was the media.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 10-30-14):NEWS REPORT: Kaci Hickox, testing Maines quarantine taking morning bike ride with her boyfriend.
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 10-31-14):NEWS REPORT: Blatantly breaking an order from state officials in Maine.
ARCHIVAL (USA TODAY, 10-30-14):NEWS REPORT: Its pretty bold of you to go out on a bike ride while the state police are here why?
ARCHIVAL (CBS, 10-31-14):REPORTER: How does it feel to be out on the road?KACI HICKOX: It feels amazing.
NARRATION: The next day the court ruled in Hickoxs favor, and she agreed to limited monitoring for the rest of the incubation period. As that window came and went, she returned to normal life.
ARCHIVAL (CNN, 10-31-14):KACI HICKOX: We will only win this battle as we continue this discussion. As we gain a better collective understanding about ebola and public health.
NARRATION: In 2015, Hickox sued Governor Chris Christie and other New Jersey officials for violating her constitutional rights. And while those claims were not upheld, it did lead to a so-called patients bill of rights for people who end up in quarantine.
NORMAN SIEGAL: Kaci insisted on changing the policy. And its very clear now that if that occurs and people have a right to counsel, have a right to have visitors see them, providing that medically its safe. A right to a hearing. A right to within 24 hours, to get a written order from the government saying why youre quarantined.
NARRATION: But the changes Hickox pushed through are only specific to people quarantined for Ebola, and only in the state of New Jersey. Siegel says developing a consistent set of policies specific to each illness is more important than ever, especially today as scientists are still learning how the coronavirus is transmitted and hundreds of Americans remain under quarantine during the current health scare.
ARCHIVAL (NBC BAY AREA, 2-6-20)FRANK HANNUM (QUARANTINED IN CALIFORNIA): Its really the best thing we can do for the people here in the United States is make sure that were not contagious.
NORMAN SIEGEL: Whether its Ebola or right now the coronavirus, all of these procedures and processes should be in place so you dont begin to make it up as you go along. Because when you make it up and you go along, its more likely youre going to make a mistake or not going to be sensitive to peoples rights. Because, gonna happen again and again, and we need to be prepared.