It was only a matter of time before the other shoe dropped. The only thing that was unclear about the inevitable article from the left proclaiming that the administration was right in refusing to implement a travel ban to the U.S. from West Africa was the identity of its author. That matter was resolved yesterday. It was the New Republic’s Jonathan Cohn who, after noting that Dr. Craig Spencer was released from the hospital Tuesday, wrote:
Surviving Ebola is no longer news. Virtually every patient who has undergone treatment at a U.S. hospital has recovered. The lone exception was Thomas Duncan, who died at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. Most likely, that happened because staff there failed to recognize signs of Ebola—and sent him home—when he first arrived with symptoms.
Cohn went on to finger-wag at “pundits and politicians, particularly although not exclusively on the right” for making a federal case out of the Ebola scare and implied they owe an apology to CDC Director Thomas Frieden and — “of course” — to Barack Obama.
Cohn has demonstrated in previous writings that he is an adherent to the views — if not in fact a card-carrying member — of the “party of science,” so he should be aware of the flaws in his own reasoning in this latest piece on the Ebola scare. The fact that an Ebola epidemic didn’t take root in the U.S. does not mean it couldn’t have — or that it still won’t. Just this morning, the Associated Press put out a dispatch noting that a surgeon from Sierra Leone with a residence in Maryland is headed to the U.S. for treatment. What will Cohn say if this case turns out to be the match strike that ignites a deadly epidemic?
Apart from repeatedly understating the risks of infection, which are considerable, neither the White House nor Frieden has ever offered a reasonable rationale for not going the extra mile and imposing a travel ban from the hot zone. Obama has said that such a ban would prevent medical personnel from reaching West Africa, but critics of his policy were not insisting on a bidirectional ban. Whatever his real reason was for not taking that extra precaution was never stated.
What we do know is that on October 14 the president said that “obviously, one case [of Ebola originating in the U.S.] is too many.” His reassurances at the time seemed odd because they came several days after the second reported case of a nurse contracting the virus on American soil. Also reported was the fact she had traveled on a commercial airline the day before she tested positive. Dr. Obama also announced around the same time that you can’t get Ebola “sitting next to someone on a bus” only to have his claim contradicted by the CDC.
The fact that no one since the aforementioned Thomas Eric Duncan, who contracted Ebola in West Africa, has died in a U.S. hospital is not affirmation that Obama was right. So far, the administration has been lucky. The American people on the other hand have been unlucky that their leader is so cavalier about a risk to their health that he has been willing to politicize it rather than deal with it in an effective and forthright manner.
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- Obama: You can’t get Ebola ‘sitting next to someone on a bus’; CDC: Yes, you can
- Obama trashed 2005 proposal to prevent entry of Ebola via international travel (Video)
- NIH official: Banning flights from Africa ‘marginalizes’ them
- As two more dominoes fall in the Ebola travel ban debate, Obama stands pat in weekly address
- Picture of the Day: Man without protective gear accompanying Ebola patient raises concerns, fears (Video)