Homeland Security announces new travel restrictions on Ebola countries that, er, aren't so new

You want a travel ban? Well, you can’t have one. This isn’t a democracy, you rubes. But how about a slight, almost cosmetic tweak to the screening procedures that are already in place?

Will that make you happy?

All passengers flying from Sierre Leone, Liberia and Guinea into the U.S. will be required to enter the country through five major airports: Dulles International Airport in Washington, D.C.; John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York City; Newark Liberty International Airport; Chicago O’Hare International Airport; and Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport…

All five airports will now be required to specially screen passengers whose trips originated in any of those three countries and perform additional “added protocols, including having their temperature taken,” Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said in a release on Tuesday.

So, temperature checks for all west African passengers at five of America’s biggest airports, which will now exclusively handle international flights that made connections from Africa. There’s lots of buzz about that online as I write this but it’s virtually no different from what we’re already doing. Temperature checks at those five airports were ordered 10 days ago; those airports were chosen because they already handle 94 percent of passengers from west Africa traveling to the United States. From what I can tell, the only change that’s been made today is requiring the remaining six percent to connect to one of those airports too to ensure that everyone from west Africa entering the U.S. is subject to a temperature screening.

But that’s pointless because … the temperature checks don’t work. Thomas Duncan passed one when he got on the plane in Monrovia to fly to Europe and eventually on to America. If you’re in the middle or late stages of Ebola, you’ll be obviously sick, in which case a temperature screening is unnecessary; if you’re in the earliest stages, you might not have developed a fever yet, and even if you have, it might be mild enough that it can be suppressed long enough with acetaminophen or ibuprofen to let you pass an airport screening. The people in the early stages are the ones to worry about since they can evade detection, but temperature checks do practically nothing to make it harder for them. This is security theater. Might as well deputize TSA to do the thermometer readings.

Maybe it doesn’t matter, though. The more time passes without any new transmissions from Duncan or the two Dallas nurses he infected, the more Americans will start to believe that the CDC was right — infection is difficult, proper quarantine procedures are being followed, and therefore the odds of a pandemic are essentially zero. I figure we’re a week away from Ebola jitters beginning to ease. In the meantime, though…


After one death (a man who didn’t even contract the disease in the U.S.) and two domestic infections, as many people say Ebola is the nation’s most important problem as say that … the federal debt is. That’s why a debt crisis is unavoidable, my friends. And that’s why I drink in the mornings.

Exit question: You feel confident that a hospital that sent a man with Ebola home with antibiotics once before wouldn’t do it again, right? Gulp.