On October 25, 2014 Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams decided to comfort the public by bowling at The Gutter, a Williamsburg bowling alley Ebola-stricken Dr. Spencer visited on Wednesday evening. “If I can put my fingers in the holes, everyone can feel comfortable about putting their fingers in the holes,” said Adams.
Later the same day, Mayor di Blasio ate lunch at The Meatball Shop in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village, which Dr. Spencer visited on Tuesday. De Blasio was joined by his wife, Chirlane McCray, as well as the New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Mary Bassett.
Dr. Spencer experienced fatigue, one of the symptoms of Ebola, two days before he went to the hospital. By the time he self-reported to seek medical care, Dr. Spencer developed additional symptoms, such as high fever and diarrhea.
A health care worker at the Bellevue Hospital told the New York Times that Dr. Spencer seemed very sick and it was unclear to the medical staff why he had not gone to the hospital earlier. Doctors believed that he was most likely infected, even before the results came in.
Government officials continue to patronize the public with Ebola-related photo ops. Their posturing is based on the premise that without it, people will fall into the state of “panic.” To the contrary, the public is not panicking. People are not terrified by Ebola. Instead, they’re angered and disgusted by the government’s repeated failures in dealing with the deadly virus.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2014 budget was increased to $6.9 billion, which is $567 million more than it received in 2013. In spite of obtaining hefty funding, the CDC’s response to Ebola was far from impressive, with the weakest protocols in the world. Protective gear initially recommended by the CDC for the hospital workers provided Biosafety Level 2 protection, instead of the needed Level 4 (BSL-4).
CDC later amended its protocols, upgrading necessary protective gear to Level 3. This is the level of protection currently implemented in West Africa. Dr. Spencer was wearing that type of protective gear when he got infected with Ebola. He asserted that the protective gear he wore while working with Ebola patients had not been breached. It was simply not effective enough. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that at least 443 health workers in West Africa have contracted the Ebola, 244 of them have died.
At the peak of the illness, an Ebola patient can have 10 billion viral particles in one-fifth of a teaspoon of blood. Ebola is more contagious than H.I.V., Hepatitis A, B and C. Researchers can safely study bubonic plague at level 3, but Ebola must be quarantined at Biosafety level 4.
Germany safely treated 3 Ebola patients, while implementing the highest level of Biosafety: BSL-4. None of the health care workers in Germany have tested positive for Ebola. It is simply unacceptable for a first-world country like the United States not to equip its healthcare workers with the maximum level of protection for treating a handful of Ebola cases in the nation. It is also inexcusable that we have not done more to prevent further spread of this deadly disease in West Africa.
Thousands of tourist visas, issued to the citizens of Ebola-stricken countries, should be temporarily revoked. Instead, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is offering “immigration relief” to nationals of those three countries who are currently in the United States, even if they entered illegally or overstayed their visa. The DHS is offering fee waivers and expedited processing of immigrant petitions for the nationals of countries affected by the deadly virus. This will only incentivize non-essential travel from the hotbeds of Ebola.
In the meantime, New York Governor Cuomo and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered a mandatory quarantine for any travelers arriving at local airports who had contact with Ebola patients in West Africa. Dr. Howard Zucker, Acting Commissioner of Health for New York State, said that all medical workers from Ebola-affected countries will be subject to a quarantine. Governor Cuomo added that voluntary quarantine is not sufficient, and that it is “almost an oxymoron.” Illinois Governor Pat Quinn also unveiled a mandatory 21-day home quarantine for “high-risk individuals” who may have come into “direct contact” with infected patients in the three African Ebola hotspots of Liberia, Sierra Leone or Guinea.
Effective, common-sense measures mean a lot more to the public than staged photo-ops. We can only hope that our government officials will concentrate on protecting public health and safety. Bowling can wait.