Quarantines and Chaos, Selfishness and Ebola

In Maine, a judge ruled that there was nothing in the law that could keep nurse Kaci Hickox in her home. The ruling was unnecessary; Hickox had already decided on her own accord that no amount of public disdain was going to keep her home for 21 days. This nurse, who must be admired for her work in West Africa, must also be harshly criticized for a self-centered attitude that is almost unfathomable.

Hickox has relished the national spotlight even as she cries otherwise. She has threatened to file a lawsuit against New Jersey Governor Chris Christie for her short-lived quarantine, to which Christie responded, “Get in line.” Because Christie understands what Hickox, Obama, and most of the officials in the federal government do not: people are scared. They see the double-talk coming from health officials, they see the ravages of West Africa, and they see the unprofessional mess that was made out of the Thomas Duncan case. All we ask for are some basic protections; Hickox, Obama, and Tom Frieden think we’re unworthy.

Stay in Your Home!

Medical quarantines are not some new-fangled Republican idea, by the way. They have a long, successful history of keeping infectious diseases from destroying civilization. While health officials may have a point about Ebola’s relatively low rate of communicability, those numbers don’t offer much comfort when you realize you’re riding a bus with someone who just got back from Sierra Leone. Just ask NBC’s Nancy Snyderman, who may have ruined her professional career by selfishly breaking quarantine last month.

Obama and other federal health officials make it sound as though a 21-day quarantine is an unimaginable hardship. They insist that no one will go over to Africa to fight the disease if they know that mandatory quarantine awaits them at home. That may be. If all the health workers who go over there are as self-absorbed as Hickox, I expect that is the case. I find that doubtful, though.

Unwarranted Arrogance

Frieden and the CDC have repeatedly told us that a person infected with Ebola is not contagious until they begin to show symptoms. But at what level do those symptoms have to be at before the disease can be spread? Does a headache count as a symptom? Does a fever? Is 21 days even enough time to wait it out? These questions have not been satisfactorily answered, and the U.S. government is pretending they know more about this disease than they really do. Certainly, Kaci Hickox is not the final authority on the subtleties of Ebola transmission.

The loudest advocate for quarantines should be the president himself. Unfortunately, Obama has bucked the will of the people at every turn. He has refused to take even basic measures to limit the flow of people from infected countries into this one, and he has slammed quarantine efforts as political posturing. Above all else, the President of the United States is sworn to protect the citizenry. If he can’t even do that much, what good is he?

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