Chris Christie — asked during Saturday night's debate how he would prevent people returning from Brazil from spreading the Zika virus — told the story of how, as New Jersey's governor, he quarantined a nurse who had been treating patients of the Ebola virus in West Africa.
"She was showing symptoms," said Christie. "And coming back from a place that had the Ebola virus active and she had been treating patients. This was not just some, like, we picked her up just for the heck of it. She was showing symptoms. And the fact is, that's the way you should make these decisions. You should make these decisions based upon the symptoms, the medicine, and the law. We quarantined her, she turned out to test negative, ultimately, after 48 hours. And we released her back to the state of Maine."
Christie's version of events, however, strayed from a number of the facts of the incident.
The nurse, Kaci Hickox, was not exhibiting symptoms of Ebola when she was first detained in Oct. 2014 amid fears that the virus would spread in the United States. Though the New Jersey Department of Health said she developed a fever while being held at Newark airport, Hickox has said that she never had any symptoms of the disease.
The policy under which she was detained was announced by Christie in conjunction with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who agreed that federal standards for quarantining those returning from regions where Ebola had spread were too lenient. The New Jersey policy called for a mandatory 21-day quarantine, regardless of whether the person was showing symptoms. It came under criticism from health experts, who called it unnecessary because the virus isn't contagious until patients develop symptoms.
Christie also suggested on Saturday that Hickox tested negative for Ebola 48 hours after being detained and that the test immediately preceded her release. Hickox tested negative for the disease the day after she was taken in (a Friday), but was not released until the following Monday.
When Hiccox was returned back to her home in Maine, she was ordered to serve out her quarantine for 21 days, but defied that order by going on a bike ride with her husband.
She has since sued Christie, accusing him of falsely saying that she was sick.
Hickox said, "My liberty, my interests and consequently my civil rights were ignored because some ambitious governors saw an opportunity to use an age-old political tactic: fear."
Christopher Massie is a political reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.
Contact Christopher Massie at Christopher.Massie@buzzfeed.com.
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