Developments over the weekend....
NIH director Anthony Fauci says there are not nearly enough Ebola facilities. Currently there are four hospitals with a total of 11 beds for Ebola patients. The military is preparing a 30-person emergency response team to move within 72 hours anywhere inside the US. Counter-intuitively, staff in US hospitals may be more vulnerable than those in Africa, due to myriad sophisticated procedures performed without Ebola safeguards. The LA Times reports that each Ebola patient generates 55 gallons of waste daily; environmental regulations bar incineration, a highly effective measure for treating Ebola waste.
Our president appoints a political guy as Ebola czar--one whose political acumen, the WSJ editors note, White House aides are citing as a credential. Ron Klain, ex-chief of staff to VPs Gore & Biden, will "coordinate" the Ebola effort--not exactly the ambit of authority normally given those denoted czars. Politics & pathogens could prove a lethal brew. (A trusted friend told me the guy is capable; let us pray....)
President Obama assured us in mid-September that the possibility of Ebola coming to our shores was quite low. He was wrong. The president said our screening process was up to the task. It was not. The director of the CDC, Dr. Tom Frieden, assured us that any major hospital can handle Ebola cases. They couldn’t. We were told protocols were in place in Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas. They weren’t.
WaPo columnist Michael Gerson (ex-43 speechwriter) explains why we teeter on the edge of Ebola mega-catastrophe:
At the current rate of new infections, affected countries are likely to see civil disorder, economic paralysis and corpses in the streets. The most immediate threat is the rapid spread of the disease in Nigeria. A major outbreak in a sprawling city such as Lagos would be unprecedented, unpredictable and horrific. As a virus multiplies, it also mutates. So far, scientists have not seen any changes in the Ebola virus that are relevant to its biological function. But with more replications, over more months, the risk increases. Scientists quietly fear genetic mutations that would make the virus harder to detect, more resistant to treatment, or (God forbid) easier to transmit. This is not likely, but it is possible.
Health officials are near their wit’s end. “I don’t see any pathway that is easy to implement,” one told me. Easy or hard, it is time for the United States to blaze a path out of this valley of death.
Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas now blames the CDC for its faulty Ebola protocols; the CDC is now calling for full-body gear for Ebola. At TWS, Jonathan Last sees six reasons to panic, one of which is this exchange with CDC chief Frieden about Ebola transmission on public transportation:
The day after that Frieden was asked during a press conference if you could contract Ebola by sitting next to someone on a bus—a question prompted by a statement from President Obama the week before, when he declared that you can’t get Ebola “through casual contact, like sitting next to someone on a bus.”
Frieden answered: “I think there are two different parts of that equation. The first is, if you’re a member of the traveling public and are healthy, should you be worried that you might have gotten it by sitting next to someone? And the answer is no. Second, if you are sick and you may have Ebola, should you get on a bus? And the answer to that is also no. You might become ill, you might have a problem that exposes someone around you.”
Bill Kristol sees twin defective liberal protocols:
The bungling is a result of a toxic confluence of two major strains of contemporary liberalism—the bureaucratic ineptness of big government and the political correctness of the nanny state. Characteristically, the strains seek to conceal themselves. Bureaucratic ineptness hides behind the “protocols” that Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and his colleagues endlessly cite. Political correctness hides behind edifying exhortations like that of White House press secretary Josh Earnest that “we live in a global world.”
But the protocols and the exhortations have been mugged by reality. It turns out protocols can’t substitute for sound policy and real leadership. It turns out the global world can’t substitute for the nation-state. Government officials like Frieden and Earnest swear an oath to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic” and to “well and faithfully discharge the duties” of their offices. They owe allegiance to the nation more than to the world, and they owe the nation their judgment more than their protocols. They are not faithfully discharging their duties of office when they make their priority protecting bureaucracies and enforcing orthodoxies.
Health policy maven Yuval Levin offers Ebola crisis lessons. He puts front & center "nefarious" pseudo-causes, such as budget cuts. CDC & NIH have seen major increases during the Clinton & Bush years. It is far from clear that added funds would have been directed at Ebola, with no US cases and, for example, malaria killing 600,000 annually. Further:
"[P]ublic health is an uneasy combination of two very different things: emergency disease containment and nannyist do-goodism. It is a field that exists to save us from the plague and to tell us to drink less soda.... [T]he CDC is for the most part an agency engaged in a kind of low-grade, often silly social activism much of the time.
Charles Krauthammer sees a need to rebalance liberty v. safety in cases of potential pandemic. He cites privacy, quarantine, evacuation & travel as key targets. CK concludes:
Regarding terrorism, we’ve developed a fairly reasonable balance. But it took time. With Ebola, we don’t have time. Viruses don’t wait. The sooner we reset the balance — the sooner we get serious — the safer we will be.
Bottom Line. Team Obama sees Ebola as a PR problem. Let's hope the pathogen does not prove him wrong.
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