Monica Crowley in the Washington Times asks an important question: Why are the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommending mandatory quarantine for personnel returning from Ebola-struck regions in Africa, yet the Obama administration calls three weeks in quarantine “overreach”?
Maybe we need hazmat suits to protect us from our leaders.
The president has two primary jobs: to protect and defend the Constitution, and to protect and defend the American people from all enemies foreign and domestic. At the state level, governors have the same two fundamental obligations.
The Ebola virus is a unique threat: It’s highly contagious, doesn’t discriminate in choosing its victims, kills about 70 percent of those it infects, and currently there is no vaccine.
It is a clear and present danger to the American people.
So when President Obama refused to institute basic, common-sense precautions to protect and defend us from the Ebola contagion — such as a temporary travel ban from Ebola-stricken West Africa and mandatory quarantine for medical workers and others who’ve had direct contact with Ebola patients — three governors took on the job themselves. After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had encouraged state health departments to devise their own plans for dealing with Ebola patients.
In a joint news conference last week in which they denounced the “honor system” of self-monitoring, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie announced that their states would require mandatory isolation for returning health care workers. Illinois Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn then quickly instituted his own state’s quarantine. Several other politically diverse states also added quarantines. A nervous public welcomed the moves.
The White House did not.
Mr. Obama and his team, realizing how impotent he appeared in the face of Messrs. Cuomo’s and Christie’s action, began a full-court press to get them to reverse course.
They dispatched Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, to question the “science” of mandatory quarantines and to argue that they could end up dissuading volunteers from traveling to West Africa. These new explanations appeared only after the administration’s first stated reason for opposing a travel ban — that we’d be unable to fly medical personnel in and out of the hot zone — made no sense.
The pressure on Messrs. Cuomo and Christie intensified when the first returning health care worker, nurse Kaci Hickox, was placed in an isolation tent after landing at Newark International Airport. Ms. Hickox — a CDC employee — threw a fit. Saying she had been repeatedly tested, remained asymptomatic and was subjected to “inhumane” treatment, she threatened to sue.
To no one’s surprise, Mr. Cuomo immediately caved. His new policy required only at-home quarantine with twice-daily medical visits. He also announced that New York taxpayers would foot the bill for any lost wages incurred by the quarantined.
When Mr. Christie refused to do a similar about-face, the political gun turrets turned on him. Given that they were not also turned on the other governor who stood firm — Illinois Democrat Pat Quinn — a cynic might suggest that Christie had been set up for an attack. He is, after all, a leading potential Republican candidate for president, and his quarantine action made him look decisive, strong, authoritative.
So the administration swung into action, calling his new regulations “overreach.” Never mind that he and Mr. Cuomo had announced them together, or that Mr. Quinn had announced them as well.