There is ample evidence that the media, especially cable news outlets, have blown up the present Ebola scare far out to proportion to reality. Aside from the fairly responsible around the clock coverage of some outlets, others have been guilty of actually encouraging fear, even to the point of airing false statements. Why, because they know the more sensational a story, the better their ratings.
It therefore not surprising that some percentage of the public is reacting with fear, and fear is something that politicians feed on. We elect governors, senators and congressmen to be our representatives and make good logical decisions for us based on the facts at hand. However, they are first and foremost politicians and often give in to the temptation of setting themselves up as the stanch defenders of public safety by taking zero risk approachs even when all of the facts and good logic dictate otherwise. Examples abound, but the imprisonment of American citizens of Japanese decent during World War II and the torturing of prisoners by the Bush administration during their “war on terror” come readily to mind. Politicians are often far too willing to throw our democratic traditions and good sense out the window to placate an overly fearful public.
Governor Christie of New York, Governor Cuomo of New York and Governor Quinn of Illinois have all signed executive orders mandating that heath care workers who have been evolved in providing care in Africa to victims of the Ebola epidemic are to be subjected to 21 days of strict isolation if they reenter the country through airports in their three states. Three of the five airports designated by the federal government for entry by travelers from the three African countries stricken with Ebola are in their states – the other two airports are in WashingtonDC and Atlanta. Of course this was all prompted when Dr. Craig Spencer was diagnosed with Ebola in New York City. Despite disreputable media reports to the contrary, Dr. Spencer acted prudently and no more than a few of his closest contacts including his girl friend might have been exposed to the virus. Even they have a negligible chance of actually contracting the disease.
All scientific knowledge about Ebola points to the fact that even if doctors and nurses contract Ebola in Africa (that is possible but not very likely), they are of no danger to anyone else until they are symptomatic. Then there are very strict protocols which they have to follow to ensure no one else is put at risk. There is no one in the world who knows and understands those protocols and are more likely to follow them exactly than those who have experienced Ebola first hand day after day. The mandatory quarantines imposed by the three governors can’t be compared with wearing a belt with suspenders; rather these rules are more like wearing a belt with suspenders with another pair of pants underneath.
The health care workers who travel to Africa to try to put an end the epidemic have put their lives on the line under primitive conditions to aid the most unfortunate and to try to ensure that the epidemic does not spread to our safe corner of the world. The measures enacted by these cowardly governors will not make the public safer, but will discourage other care givers from traveling to Africa to fight the disease. Ultimately these mandatory isolation orders will make us all less safe than we would have been otherwise.
The health care workers will be subjected to these forced isolations should be treated like the heroes rather than prisoners.