WASHINGTON, October 16, 2014 — America is a target-rich environment for political nonsense. People will believe anything, especially when presented with authoritative bureaucratic buzzwords. This is no better illustrated than the current debate concerning the federal response, or lack thereof, to the growing threat of an Ebola outbreak in America and the government’s health crisis “protocols.”
After a White House meeting with his cabinet, President Obama told the press, “The key thing to understand about this disease [Ebola] is these protocols work. We know that because they’ve been used for decades now.”
Refusing to impose a travel ban on people from Ebola affected areas of Africa, Obama said, “The single most important thing that we can do to prevent a more serious Ebola outbreak in this country is making sure that we get what is a raging epidemic right now in West Africa under control.”
Then a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, who aided in the treatment of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia, contracted the deadly virus. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention head Dr. Thomas Frieden blamed the nurse in question for a “protocol breach.”
A statement issued by National Nurses United, the nation’s largest nurses’ union and professional association, said of the events in Dallas:
There was no advance preparedness on what to do with the [Ebola] patient, there was no protocol, there was no system. The nurses were asked to call the Infectious Disease Department. The Infectious Disease Department did not have clear policies to provide either … The suits they [the nurses] were given still exposed their necks, the part closest to their face and mouth. They had suits with booties and hoods, three pairs of gloves, no tape … CDC officials who are in the hospital and Infectious Disease personnel have not kept hallways clean; they were going back and forth between the Isolation Pod and back into the hallways that were not properly cleaned, even after CDC, infectious control personnel, and doctors who exited into those hallways after being in the isolation pods.
Then a second Dallas nurse, Amber Vinson, contracted Ebola. When she developed a fever, Vinson contacted the CDC before taking a commercial flight from Ohio to Dallas. “Vinson was not told that she could not fly,” a CDC source told NBC News.
“She did not vomit, she was not bleeding,” CDC chief Frieden later said, “so the level of risk of people around her would be extremely low.”
It’s unclear how the 132 passengers aboard Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 feel concerning the CDC’s cavalier risk assessment. But they’ll get the chance to make it clear should they call 1-800-CDC INFO to answer questions aimed at determining if they pose “any potential risk” to their fellow Americans and are candidates to “be actively monitored,” said the CDC.
The president, and the political (and medical) hacks surrounding him, insist we must not quarantine West Africans to their continent by banning them from flying into the United States. That seems to be the domestic policy of the CDC for Ebola-infected health care workers walking freely about the passenger cabin on Frontier Airlines.
But help is on its way. On the advice of failed GOP presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, the Obama administration is preparing to select an Ebola Czar to take charge of the threat. The smart money says Homeland Security’s counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco will be the president’s pick. She has no medical background, but has years of experience haunting the halls of the Justice Department.
In an interesting side note, little has been said of Dr. Nicole Lurie. She is one of eight assistant secretaries at the Department of Health and Human Services. A biographical blurb posted on the National Journal website describes her job as planning “for the unthinkable. A global flu pandemic? She has a plan. A bioterror attack? She’s on it. Massive earthquake? Yep. Her responsibilities as assistant secretary span public health, global health, and homeland security.”
Amazingly, Dr. Lurie takes time from saving the world to “run, skate, or practice yoga.”
The Pew Research Center reports that “most Americans have at least a fair amount of confidence in the government’s ability to prevent a major outbreak of Ebola in the U.S.”
Abraham Lincoln said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all the time.”
In the case of the U.S. government’s inept handling of Ebola, this appears to be one of those times.