When I talked to her yesterday, Friday, she said she felt fine and happy and she sounded good, if a bit jet-lagged from her 48-hour trip home.
That trip home started last Tuesday when she left Kono by UN helicopter for Freetown,
Then, in the Newark airport at the entrance to U.S. Customs, began her pre-quarantine re-entry process.
As Claire stood in line at Customs she wondered if the agents would know that she'd just returned from West Africa. However when she handed her passport over to the customs agent she could see that he was in possession of a list of names on which hers was highlighted.
Claire was immediately escorted away from Customs to a room where several Homeland Security agents were waiting for her. They were dressed in Ebola gear, though somewhat lighter than the gear Claire had been wearing in Sierra Leone .
The agents asked her a number of questions: What was her seat number on the plane? Where had she come from? Where had she stayed? Had she been to any funerals? Touched Ebola Patients? Touched dead people? Had she been sick?
Claire said the Homeland Security agents were quite stern with her, but she felt some sympathy for them for their having to wear that bulky gear and be in the same room as someone whom they'd been told might have Ebola.
Furthermore the gear must have been uncomfortable as they kept reaching under their masks to itch their faces or rub their eyes, while Claire kept thinking, Dudes, don't do that!
After her interview with Homeland Security she was taken to a second room where she was asked the same questions by a second round of stern interrogators.
At the end of this questioning she was handed a phone and a thermometer then led to a third room for a third interview, this time by representatives of the Centers For Disease Control. The CDC people were actually quite nice.
The she was led to a final room where she was asked the same questions one more time for good measure, then given instructions on how to use the phone, which was to be used exclusively for communication with the Illinois Department of Health.
Two hours and four interviews later Claire was finally cleared and free to run like crazy through the Newark airport for her connecting Flight to Chicago. She zipped through the gate at 2:49, after which the plane doors immediately closed and the plane took off at 2:55.
When she arrived in Chicago to minus 7- degree weather Miguel was there waiting for her with her coat, which she'd sent home from Boston prior to leaving for 90-degree Sierra Leone.
When Claire and Miguel arrived home they celebrated with take-out from Penny's,
After dinner Claire, on beyond exhausted, headed straight for bed.
The next day, Friday, yesterday, Claire received her first visit from the Illinois department of Health and her 21-day quarantine officially began.
The Health department representative was all strictly serious business as she read Claire her rights then made Claire read the quarantine order out loud before signing it. Claire was then warned that she would be taken to court if she violated her quarantine.
The representative sternly advised Claire that for the next 21 days she must stay away from public places. Claire may go outside to take a walk though she is required to keep a diary of anyone she comes into contact with. Claire asked if she might be allowed to go to the grocery store to buy food. The representative wasn't sure so she called her supervisor who said that Claire may go to the store to buy herself food but that she must keep a diary of anyone she comes in contact with in the grocery store.
Finally the representative had Claire take her temperature with the thermometer she was given at U.S. customs and the representative checked the reading. She informed Claire that she would be back every day for the next 21 days to have Claire take her temperature in her presence so that she could verify the reading.
Maybe Claire and the Health Department representative will become friends.
I have a friend whose son is a young doctor who also was in West Africa fighting Ebola. He lives in Pennsylvania and was likewise under quarantine when he returned, but rather than receiving a daily visit from the Health Department he was required to take his temperature every day, photograph the reading on the thermometer, and email the picture daily to the Health Department.
In New York health care workers who've returned from West Africa are warned that during their quarantine they may be required to submit to a blood test to make sure they haven't taken Tylenol in an attempt to disguise a fever.
All of which begs the question: If someone who'd been dealing for six weeks with Ebola up close in all its ravaging and horrific glory started feeling the teensiest bit sick or feverish themselves, wouldn't they be on top of getting treatment for themselves on their own initiative? Like wouldn't they be on the horn in a micro-nanosceond? Would they really try to pull one over on the Health Department by hiding their illness so that they could avoid getting treatment?
I mean, would they really?