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Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan, Yankton, Oct. 28, 2014
Ebola: A crisis in our response
America's handling of the Ebola crisis seems to be a crisis in its own right. It stumbled slowly out of the gate and has not gotten much better as the situation has progressed.
It has now become a stage for political hysteria, with at least two governors discarding medical advice to impose their own quarantine rules that, ironically, may make things worse.
That's how our country handles a crisis, it appears: Reaching for short-term, popular fixes that disregard the big picture.
There was a lot of criticism two weeks ago when President Barack Obama named an "Ebola czar," Ron Klain, who had no medical background but had experience in government management. On the face of it, that's actually not an unreasonable skill to have in a situation like this: While he may not have a medical background, he would be able to implement and coordinate an emergency response protocol that would include tapping the best medical minds available.
But just how much Klain is currently doing in that regard is hard to detect, given what we're seeing in New Jersey and New York. That's where Govs. Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo, respectively, have unilaterally taken their own initiatives by declaring mandatory 21-day quarantines on aid workers returning from the so-called "Ebola zone" of West Africa.
In this instance, we have two individuals without medical backgrounds who are calling their own shots — "to err on the side of caution," Cuomo said — while discarding medical opinion on the matter.
This leads us to the ordeal of Kaci Hickox, a nurse and epidemiologist for Doctors Without Borders, who landed in Newark, New Jersey, from Sierra Leone on Friday and was promptly stuffed in quarantine, which turned out to be an unheated tent outside of a local hospital. She exhibited no symptoms of an Ebola infection — it's not infectious unless symptoms are present — and said she felt fine. This flatly contradicts Christie's ascertain that she had a fever and was "obviously not well."
Ultimately, Hickox was allowed to return to her home in Maine Monday, but only after the American Civil Liberties Union got into the act. A lawsuit may well be looming.
So, where was the Ebola czar here when coordination between state and federal officials was desperately needed?
And where was the cool-headedness and medical rationale of these governors when they imposed what Hickox described as "knee-jerk" quarantines?
The great fear expressed by many medical experts is that such measures will discourage workers from going to West Africa to combat this disease. As many of these medical people have said, fighting Ebola in West Africa, at its epicenter, is the best way to protect Americans here.
Similarly, some lawmakers have called for travel bans imposed on West Africa, a move that also worries medical experts. On the surface, it may seem logical and simple, but such a ban might reduce the number of workers going to the afflicted region, which could make the Ebola outbreak worse and subsequently an even greater threat. It would also compel people in West Africa wishing to come to the U.S. to go to other countries to find connections. Would we place bans on those countries, too?
We seem to be battling the Ebola outbreak by leading with our jittery emotions, and with politicians playing upon public fears. That might score some points in the polls, but does it really address the core issues of fighting this disease? And does it ultimately keep us safer?
Watertown Public Opinion, Watertown, Nov. 3, 2014
Dirty tricks, negative ad are nothing new
The day before yesterday we gained something by turning back the hands of a clock. The day after tomorrow we gain something by turning forward the page of a calendar.
Saturday we were rewarded with an extra hour of sleep by setting our clocks back an hour. Wednesday, we will be rewarded with freedom from what started out as a slow trickle of harmless 'vote for me' political ads for tomorrow's election that eventually morphed into a series of increasingly negative diatribes saying more about what was wrong with one candidate than what was right with another.
Many of us are convinced negative campaigning is a relatively modern phenomena. Sadly, that's far from the truth. Negative ads are as much a part of the American landscape as fireworks and apple pie. In fact, as bad as it is now, it used to be worse; much worse.
In 1800, then-Vice President Thomas Jefferson decided to run against then-President John Adams. Not surprisingly, that didn't go over too well with the president who called the vice president an arsonist and an abuser of women, among other things. The vice president responded, in turn, by calling the president a hermaphrodite, among other things.
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