Obama vs. Ebola
In light of his press conference Thursday, Obama is making the same mistake in dealing with the question of travel bans as he did in Iraq and Afghanistan: he places far too much reliance on his experts in the Ivory Tower than he does the boots on the ground, whether commanders in the field or doctors and nurses in our hospitals.
While he stresses that he is not philosophically opposed to travel bans, he remains steadfast in his refusal to institute them, relying on advice from his experts — Frieden, Fauci, and now Burwell -- who isn’t a doctor but is most likely parroting her medical peers.
These infectious disease mavens inform the president that “if we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we put in place now” history proves there would be a “likelihood of increased avoidance,” people won’t disclose their information, they will break up their travel to hide exposure, “we may end up getting less information about who has the disease,” and they are less likely to be adequately treated, screened, and quarantined resulting in more rather than fewer cases. History also shows that quarantines and travel restrictions limit exposure to deadly epidemics. I guess they chose to ignore that part of the history books.
Notice the phrase “instead of the protocols that we put in place now.” Why can’t those protocols (screenings, SWAT-like teams, better training, transfer to Ebola-ready facilities, etc.) remain in place with travel bans and quarantines? Why do some protocols exclude the possibility of others? They don’t. This is so obviously not an “either-or” choice, one wonders why it is repeatedly marched out before the public, especially when almost no one agrees with it.
Further confounding a frustrated citizenry, Obama’s cited justification against travel bans differs significantly from the “isolation-economic ruin-social disruption-fledgling democracies-increased exit-increased danger to the homeland” scenario laid out by Frieden and Fauci the past few weeks. Which is it?
Despite this reasoning, Obama reassures us:
I continue to push and ask our experts whether, in fact, we are doing what‘s adequate in order to protect the American people. If they come back to me and they say that there are some additional things that we need to do, I assure you we will do it. But it is important in these circumstances for us to look at the history of how these infectious diseases are best dealt with and it is currently the judgment of all those who have been involved that a flat out travel ban is not the best way to go.
But we will continue to monitor this. I am asking these questions and if, in fact, it turns out that I’m getting different answers, then I will share that with the American people and we will not hesitate to do what’s necessary in order to maximize the chances that we avoid an outbreak here in the United States.
Okay, at least the door is open, but will it be too late? I sound like a broken record, but entry and exit screenings just don’t catch the guy on the plane, who is not yet infectious but becomes so at some point after he lands. Moreover, can there be any doubt that West Africans will have more incentive to lie and get on a U.S.-bound plane knowing that others have done so, in the hopes of increasing their chance of recovery while bringing the contagion in larger numbers to our shores?
Frankly, I don’t care if the West African is an American living in Liberia with a so-called “right of return.” I don’t care if he is a soldier from Guinea. I don’t care if he is a native from Sierra Leone. I don’t care if he is Mother Theresa herself. The fact is: his departure should be prevented to protect the homeland and, if he does get through and wants admission to this country, then he should gladly go into quarantine for the 21 day incubation period. In the absence of this, hundreds of Thomas Duncans can potentially alight on our airports, each infecting two more, who each infect two more, who each infect two more. You get it. I get it. Why don’t they?
If Obama is so sure this process is so reasonable and ironclad, why doesn’t he meet and greet West Africans as they come off their flights -- he can kiss and hug them just like he did at Emory University hospital and we can all get bumper stickers that read: Have you hugged your Ebola patient today?