There’s a major and potentially harmful debate about the function and effect of quarantine in securing America against the ingress and spread of Ebola. It all spins around a significant misunderstanding of duty and volunteerism, primarily suffered by our politically correct cadres.
Everyone agrees that Ebola must be stopped in its African hotzone, and that requires the massive help from developed countries – mostly America and the EU. Most people (although not so many in our federal government) understand the ability of Ebola to infect in its asymptomatic and symptomatic phases. Few at policy making levels in government recognize that current temperature measuring and self-reporting measures at entry airports are an ineffective approach to keep Ebola out – the Obama administration maintains that “there is no gap” in such security measures.
The obvious security measure is to impose a 21-day quarantine on people entering from the hotzone. But that is resisted by policy makers arguing that imposing such a quarantine on returnees would immediately reduce the ranks of the otherwise dedicated healthcare workers who would volunteer for the hotzone. Why? Well, the argument, by those who probably have volunteered little and are dedicated primarily to their government careers, is that adding such a quarantine to the end of their hotzone duty would deter the dedicated volunteers.
Nothing could be further from the truth. If everyone considering such volunteering knows ahead of time that they would spend 21 days in some form of comfortable confinement, either at home or at a well-appointed quarantine facility, then they would simply factor that into their service plans. And moreover, most such workers would understand and even possibly insist that they remain in a confined and regularly monitored environment after having been potentially exposed to Ebola. I know that I would and in the past have factored in such delays that bookend deployments and travel overseas. (Military and even corporate personnel schedule such extensions as a matter of course.) I most certainly would not want to come back from the hotzone directly into the loving embraces of my family and others I hold most precious. Everyone I have consulted about this attitude agrees that it is a no-brainer everywhere but within the tentacles of Team Obama where only political considerations are paramount.
(A moment’s thought reveals that historically factoring in such long and sometime arduous delays have always been a matter of course when the reward from arriving or returning has been sufficient. Presaged and planned comfortable quarantine is no different. Today’s policy quagmire over such factors reflects the a larger disease that already afflicts our society.)
[29oct14 update] Holman Jenkins in this morning's WSJ asks 'Why no Ebola travel ban? Politics', and expands while confirming the points made above and before on these pages. The inevitable conclusion is that there will be a flood of potential Ebola carriers into the US under Obama's current "no gap" security plan to keep the epidemic out of America. Jenkins observes that -
The danger of medical personnel, even as they arrive in the stricken countries in larger numbers, bringing the disease back with them is surely shrinking. The danger posed by locals fleeing Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone carrying the virus with them is likely increasing—and may increase dramatically if current forecasts are borne out.
West Africans are learning too: how and when transmission is likely to occur; that a 10-day window exists before symptoms become observable; that their survival chances are much greater in a Western hospital; that they would be unwise to mention any contact with Ebola patients until safely in the arms of Western medicine.
As more observers start thinking and informing people about how politics obviously trumps reason (and science), the chances are that this poll driven administration will install security measures that have a chance of stopping the spread of Ebola in the US.