Ebola quarantines: catch the fever!

No sooner had the Obama Administration browbeaten New York’s bumbling governor, Andrew Cuomo, into backing down from his ebola quarantine policy – leading to what was widely interpreted as a partial backpedal by his quarantine partner, Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey, although Christie maintains he has not budged an inch – then Connecticut’s Democrat governor instituted an Ebola quarantine policy in his state.  And Malloy inaugurated that policy by tossing nine people into isolation!  (One of them was quickly released.)

CBS News in New York reports:

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewel Mullen announced Monday that all people coming to the state after traveling to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea in West Africa will at least face 21 days of mandatory monitoring involving state health officials contacting them daily.

As in New York and New Jersey, a mandatory quarantine may be ordered in some cases.

???We???re going to interview every person that we???re informed is coming to our state after travel from West Africa, and based on those interviews, we???re going to make a determination whether quarantine immediately is required ??? and we have to quarantine individuals ??? or active monitoring ??? that is where someone is responsible for making sure that temperature is being taken once or twice a day for 21 days,??? Malloy told WCBS 880 Monday night.

Malloy explained that people will be evaluated based on a detailed analysis of their symptoms and background.

???If you???re in a low-risk category, or you are no longer at risk of being exposed under any circumstance ??? you???re not traveling from West Africa; you???re here; you weren???t in a portion of West Africa that had an active Ebola outbreak; you weren???t someone who was treating folks ??? then you have low risk factors other than the fact that you may have gone to an airport,??? he said. ???That???s a very different situation than someone who presents themselves having been exposed to individuals who have had the Ebola virus.???

Governor Pat Quinn of Illinois, another Democrat, has also ordered mandatory home isolation for high-risk Ebola exposures, although the 21-day quarantine will evidently be waived for health care workers returning from Africa who used appropriate protective gear and are displaying no symptoms upon their return.  That’s only a bit more stringent than the official CDC guidelines, and seems to avoid the uncomfortable fact that quite a few doctors who used protective equipment have nevertheless been infected.  CNN adds that Florida and Virginia are launching mandatory monitoring programs for all travelers returning from West Africa.

The Centers for Disease Control is still all over the map on this, once again revising its “guidelines” to create a confusing potpourri of “risk categories” and recommending varying levels of isolation for each.  “High risk” individuals who had unprotected contact with Ebola victims are supposed to voluntarily isolate themselves.  That’s just not good enough, and it’s baffling that anyone who works for this Administration needs to be told why.

Both the CDC brass and President Obama repeated that their top priority is avoiding placing an “undue burden” on doctors and nurses that would supposedly “discourage” them from traveling to Africa to battle Ebola.  They’re disturbingly fanatical about this, which baffles average Americans who wonder why anything should be considered a higher priority by their government than protecting the American people from infection.  It’s not as if we’re talking about incinerating returning doctors and nurses.

Why is a 21-day isolation procedure such an unbearable burden for people willing to endure the West African hot zone?  Why on Earth does the Administration insist on treating isolation protocols as some kind of insult?  “Her service and commitment to this cause is something that should be honored and respected,” White House spokesman Josh Earnest, referring to the Ebola nurse quarantined in New Jersey.  “And I don’t think we do that by making her live in a tent for two or three days.”

Governor Quinn of Illinois felt obliged to make a ritual genuflection to the heroism of Ebola fighters, all but apologizing for the need to take mandatory precautions, instead of leaving everything to their discretion: “We definitely, definitely honor all of those heroes, men and women who go forward to help the health of others.  At the same time, upon their return if they have been directly exposed, it’s just common sense that there be this 21-day period in someone’s home, where they are comfortable, in order to make sure everyone is not affected.”

Where did they get this idiotic notion that steps to contain Ebola should be compromised, if they hurt the feelings of at-risk individuals and make them feel less heroic?  It’s as if they expect a crowd of jeering street urchins to line up outside the isolation facility and throw tomatoes at the windows, as through quarantine subjects were being pilloried in the public square.  This talking point about quarantine-as-insult is ubiquitous throughout the Administration, but I have yet to see a single account of one solitary American citizen saying they think less of people who go into isolation after returning from front-line duty in the Ebola wars.  Also, our government had no problem ordering such isolation for U.S. troops returning from the hot zone.  Aren’t they being insulted and treated as less than heroic by such policies, or are we only supposed to care about the injured pride of civilian medical staff?

On the contrary, a solid mandatory isolation program protects the integrity of everyone involved, enhancing public confidence by eliminating the risk of any more “Ebola Bowling Night” incidents.  Remember, these developments are not happening in a vacuum; we’ve seen a disturbing number of health care workers infected with Ebola despite having good equipment and medical training, we’ve seen people who thought they were in the clear suddenly manifest symptoms of the disease, and we’ve seen doctors ignore voluntary isolation recommendations.  Why are the authorities so invested in sneering at a public that just wants a little reassurance?  The Administration seems more interested in winning some kind of SCIENCE! argument with the public than protecting them.

May I make a brutally direct point about the public view of Ebola doctors returning from Africa?  They’re not entirely sold on the idea that fighting the African outbreak is worth risking an Ebola outbreak in the United States.  I suspect the American people would say they feel sympathy for the plight of African victims and respect those who volunteer to help, if polled on the question… but if pollsters asked, “Do you support sending American personnel to fight Ebola in Africa if there is a significant risk of the virus returning to America with them?” the numbers would get quite a bit lower.  The Administration, of course, is absolutely and totally dedicated to the African Ebola battle as arguably America’s most important mission in the world – demonstrably more important than fighting ISIS, judging by the number of troops dispatched to each theater.  It is supposed to be accepted without question that America will bear any burden and pay any price to wipe out Ebola.  The American people have questions.  The government-media elite despises them for it, and the elites are deeply worried that a major Ebola outbreak in the U.S. would make them the losers in this argument.  I would suggest that’s one reason the elites are screaming “HOW DARE YOU QUESTION THE HEROISM OF THESE BRAVE SOULS!” when the subject of mandatory isolation and monitoring comes up, even though no one is actually doing that.

Besides this strange fetish about treating isolation as an offense to the pride of the isolated doctors and nurses, I suspect one of the reasons CDC and the White House are digging in their heels is that they simply don’t want to admit their original protocols were inadequate.  This is turning into a bloody-minded staring contest between the feds and a growing number of state governors.  At least the “abundance of caution” talking point appears to be dead, or at least comatose.  Nobody in the federal government is bragging about an “abundance of caution” any more, not when their unalterable position is that people exposed to Ebola in the hot zone should be allowed to enjoy a night on town while running a fever.

Speaking of which, our celebrity Ebola quarantine victim, nurse Kaci Hickox, was not asymptomatic when she was quarantined in New Jersey, as was almost universally reported.  She was checked with a forehead scanner, and it reported she was running a high fever.  She says this was misdiagnosis due to her agitated emotional state, and her body temperature was normal when she was checked again later.  Fevers are the symptom CDC  was confidently boasting it could use to snag potential Ebola carriers the instant they stepped off airplanes, just two months ago.  Shouldn’t medical personnel returning from the hot zone be well aware that they’re going to be checked with forehead scanners at the airport, and understand the importance of remaining calm?  Or is this another case where our bloated, incompetent government forgot to tell those heroic Ebola fighters about the protocols for Ebola defense at U.S. airports?

Hickox actually lives in Maine, where she has been cleared to return… only to discover that the people of Maine aren’t thrilled to have her back.  The New York Post reports locals have set up a Facebook page opposed to her return home, where one user wrote, “She is pretty selfish and without common sense!”  The manager of her hometown is said to have “received phone calls from many worried residents.”  The nurse has reportedly agreed to a voluntary in-home isolation period, but she’s arguing with the state of Maine over how long it will last… an argument spirited enough to get her lawyers involved, as state officials issue vague warnings about how they’ll take “appropriate action” if she breaks isolation early.  Hickox apparently thinks she only needs to stay home for a day or two.

This is the sort of thing that won’t happen as much if people are reassured by sensible mandatory isolation protocols, although stamping out every vestige of Ebola fear would be a tall order.  I believe Hickox had a fair point about the clumsy implementation of New Jersey’s quarantine procedure, but she also exaggerated her hardships – according to New Jersey authorities, she straight-up lied about some of them – and her shrill attitude is apparently not reassuring to some of her neighbors.  I get the impression from man-on-the-street interviews that the general public is somewhat less sympathetic to Hickox than the national media.  She lost some people when she started sounding like she was auditioning for job at MSNBC.

Governor Christie appeared on the Today show to defend his state’s Ebola protocol and insist he hasn’t backed down on it, rejecting host Matt Lauer’s insinuation that Hickox was only sprung from hermetically-sealed stir and allowed to return to Maine because she lawyered up:

“Is it possible you’re going to be on the wrong side of science, but the right side of public opinion on this?” asked Lauer, repeating the latest variation of the fashionable “normal people are hysterical idiots” narrative beloved by the Beltway-media axis.  Christie answered with some excellent points about how SCIENCE! has been wrong about Ebola quite a few times lately.  I know why they elite are so desperate to reinforce their sense of superiority by treating public concern over Ebola as benighted superstition.  What I don’t get is why anyone genuinely expects the public to forget about the Dallas Ebola circus, Dr. Spencer’s Excellent Adventure, Dr. Nancy Snyderman breaking isolation to get a bowl of soup, or the unsettling number of skilled and dedicated doctors who have contracted Ebola in Africa despite taking every precaution.  The public isn’t “freaking out” en masse.  They’re asking for reasonable steps to avoid the conditions that would cause a freak-out, and they’re more than a little tired of being insulted for it.