The CDC doesn’t seem especially willing to contend with the subject of Ebola virus transportation via air travel. Not to a nurse calling the CDC with potential symptoms of Ebola requesting to take a weekend getaway to Ohio, and most likely to Congress in today’s emergency Congressional Energy and Commerce Subcommittee hearing on the Ebola outbreak, featuring CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, NIAID director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and other directors from the HHS, DHS and FDA. Although Rep. Tim Murphy is reportedly going to try.
Yesterday, the White House reiterated that a ban on flights originating in outbreak countries is not on the table, so Patient Zero could be in a boarding lounge as we speak (errrr….write), and while they haven’t given much rationale for their unwillingness to cut off the booming market for tourism to West Africa, it turns out most of their rationale actually is the booming market for tourism to West Africa.
Murphy, though, said he talked with Frieden about a ban. “And he explained to me that what the concern was that these are fledgling democracies and if we put a travel ban that that may affect their economy and harm them,” the congressman said.
“And I see it as, look, we can still move planes in and out there with supplies. We can do a lot. And we can help in every other way with economics. We can provide a lot of support to these nations. And the United States is doing it both to government and nongovernment organizations. A massive amount of charity is going to help these people as we should. But I just don’t understand the concept of if we stop flights in travel that would be a problem. I think we need to do that because our first concern is, as he said, do no harm. ”
Murphy said lawmakers today will grill Frieden on “where this policy is coming from.”
I mean, I sort of get that, from a libertarian perspective: free markets are better able to pull people out of poverty than free money, and where we don’t allow capitalism to flourish we end up subsidizing with foreign aid. But if we were talking about President Murray Rothbard, I might consider that awfully practical and economically-focused excuse a real thing. But since this might officially be the first time the Obama Administration has talked their way out of something using unfettered capitalism as an excuse, I consider it suspect.
That said, the real reason might be much simpler. The CDC believes it has the capacity to monitor every passenger on every plane coming from a designated outbreak zone by issuing self-reported questionaires and taking digital temperature readings of passengers disembarking from the hot zone. If they seemed capable, this might be a fine solution. But then they can’t even seem to catch up with any of the passengers on the Frontier Airlines flight from Ohio to Houston carrying the second infected Dallas nurse? The government could just get the passenger manifest and contact individuals who face risk of exposure, but instead, they’re using journalists with Twitter to get the word out to potential Ebola patients to give them a ring.
You’d think it would just be less work to ground the flights and apologize later.