Following up on John’s post on the discovery of an Ebola carrier in Dallas, via travel from Liberia to Brussels and Dulles Airport, I want to take advantage of Neil Munro’s account of the White House’s thinking on the matter. White House spokesman Josh Earnest fielded questions yesterday that elicited an explanation of the administration’s rejection of travel restrictions. Travel restrictions seem basic to a rational public health approach to the outbreak. Munro reports:
White House spokesman Josh Earnest rebuffed questions Oct. 1 about a possible federal ban on travel from Ebola-stricken countries, and said the president will rely instead on government medical professionals to contain imported epidemics.
“These are the experts, they have a keen understanding of how to prevent the spread of this disease,” he said, adding “we can stop the spread of Ebola in its tracks.”
“What are the conditions under which the President would order or want to see travel restrictions?” asked one reporter.
“We are confident that the sophisticated medical infrastructure that exists here in the United States can prevent the wide spread of Ebola,” Earnest said.
“Doesn’t that imply that we’re willing to accept a certain number of people coming into this country who will be diagnosed and develop Ebola once they’re here?” the reporter asked.
“We live in a global world, and what we’re confident that we can do is to both protect the safety of the traveling public and … protect the broader American public by rigorously applying the kind of medical protocols that are recommended by the Centers for Disease Control,” Earnest replied.
Munro drily observes: “The president picked a bad week for putting additional faith in government professionals.” Munro certainly has a point, but why is this week different from every other week? Munro’s account of the administration’s thinking reads like what fearlessly used to be called black humor back in the rollicking sixties — I still have my copy of Bruce Jay Friedman’s anthology Black Humor — no racial reference intended.
NOTE: One can get a glimpse of the CDC protocols in the CDC’s “Questions and answers on Ebola.”