There has been a flood of push back and grumbling about the already lessened Ebola quarantines in New York and New Jersey, as well as against any of us who dared to speak up in support of them. Of course, everyone feels bad for the nurse who was quarantined in New Jersey, though she immediately began declaring that her civil rights had been violated and lecturing the rest of us about how, as a medical professional, she knew better than the hoi polloi whether or not she was a danger to others. Unfortunately there are a couple of glaring problems with this argument… the same one currently being pitched yet again by the White House.
As to who knows what, I’m afraid that this is still more of an open question than most of these experts and federal officials care to admit. First of all, the various quotes about when patients definitively become infectious and what the transmission paths are sound very reassuring when they come from medical professionals. But to this day, even in full health, Dr. Kent Brantly will still be the first one to tell you that he has no idea exactly when he became infected or how it happened. This is still new science in some ways, and finding out that your first, second or fifth theory was wrong could come in the form of a very expensive lesson.
Combine that with the second topic, and a responsible government might want to start listening to more than 70% of the public, as well as 75% of doctors, and err on the side of caution. You see, one of the key elements of the current plans relies on people who are asymptomatic engaging in self-quarantine and promptly reporting themselves if anything seems amiss. Will everyone be honest about this? Well, it turns out that Thomas Eric Duncan wasn’t.
An emergency room nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan said in an interview broadcast Sunday night that the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S. was not honest about his exposure to the deadly virus.
Sidia Rose told “60 Minutes” that Duncan said during his second trip to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas that he had not been in contact with anyone who had been sick.
“I explained to him, ‘We are under the impression that you may have been exposed to Ebola.’ And I said, ‘Where are you from?’ And he told me Liberia,” she said.
“And I asked ‘Have you been in contact with anyone who’s been sick?’ ”
“No. He said no,” Rose said.
Bryan Preston makes the connection.
If a state fails to fully track an Ebola victim’s movements and outbreak occurs, they will be rightly accused of negligence.
The honor system has not and will not work to stop Ebola. It has already failed. Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was exposed to Ebola in his native country and then brought it to Dallas, lied on his Liberian exit form and then according to his Dallas nurses lied again about his Ebola exposure during his first visit to the hospital.
Medical doctors and so-called experts have denounced the state-level quarantines, but two doctors and a nurse have exposed others to Ebola after their own exposures. Both Dr. Nancy Snyderman of NBC and Dr. Gardner exposed others by violating quarantine and in Gardner’s case, using mass transit. Dallas nurse Amber Joy Vinson did as well, flying between Dallas and Cleveland, OH, on commercial aircraft despite showing symptoms.
I’m not saying that any of the professionals who volunteer in Africa are going to deliberately lie. But they are working with a lot of other people. And even among the medical staff and supporting workers, there may be a significant risk that the required data will not be volunteered on the first go round. People facing a potentially dire situation will frequently be in denial. We see that all the time with folks who avoid going to the doctor only to find out later that all of those warning signs were, indeed, cancer. But if you can’t bring yourself to admit it in your own mind, you likely won’t be checking off those boxes on a form either. Further, you might be thinking that it can’t possibly be Ebola, so why would I go through all the hassle of reporting this?
Where would they get that idea? Maybe from hearing an endless stream of government spokesmodels being paraded across your television screen telling you that it’s almost impossible to catch in the first place. And if you’ve had that drilled into your head often enough, who wants to go get locked up in their house for three weeks for what is almost certainly just a case of the flu?
I discussed this a while back in reference to the President, but it applies to the elected officials at all levels charged with keeping their constituents safe. Sure, you might overreact. Maybe this will all blow over. But if you had to get this one wrong, on which side would you rather err? The answer remains obvious unless you are determined to turn this into a political football.