Growing up in Washington in the 1930s and ’40s, our home was,
several times, put under quarantine. A poster would be tacked on the
door indicating the presence within of a contagious disease – measles,
mumps, chicken pox, scarlet fever.
None of us believed we were victims of some sort of invidious
discrimination against large Catholic families. It was a given that
public health authorities were trying to contain the spread of a disease
threatening the health of children.
Out came the Monopoly board.
Polio, or infantile paralysis, was the most fearsome of those
diseases. The first two national Boy Scout jamborees, which were to be
held in Washington in 1935 and 1936, were canceled by presidential
proclamation because of an outbreak of polio in the city.
Franklin Roosevelt, who had apparently contracted polio in 1921,
never to walk again, appreciated the danger. In the 1930s, ’40s and
early ’50s, there were outbreaks of polio in D.C. Swimming pools were
The Greatest Generation possessed a common sense that seems lacking today.
We read that five new Ebola cases occur every hour in Liberia, Guinea
and Sierra Leone, that thousands are dead and thousands more are dying,
that by December, there may be 10,000 new cases a week of this dreadful
and deadly disease.
Yet calls for the cancellation of commercial airline travel from the
affected nations to the United States are being decried as racist, an
abandonment of America’s responsibilities to Africa, a threat to the
economies of the poorest continent on earth.
How could we consider such a thing!
Where once we suffered from infantile paralysis, now we suffer from
ideological paralysis. And there appears to be no Salk or Sabin vaccine
to cure our condition.
Exhibit A is the befuddled response of some in public service is the case of Amber Joy Vinson.
Nurse Vinson was among 75 health-care providers who treated Thomas
Eric Duncan, the Liberian who brought Ebola into the United States. At
the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where Duncan was treated, Vinson
had been among those in closest contact with the patient.
Two days after Duncan’s death, Vinson was allowed to fly to Cleveland
to visit relatives. She then prepared to fly back to Dallas.
Before boarding, she called the Centerd for Disease Control and said
she was running a fever of 99.5. Yet she was given clearance to fly
commercial back to Dallas, where she was admitted to the hospital with
symptoms of the disease. She is the second nurse at that hospital to
come down with Ebola.
According to CBS Medical Correspondent Dr. John LaPook, “Nurse Vinson
did in fact call the CDC several times before taking that flight and
said she had a temperature, a fever of 99.5, and the person at the CDC
looked at a chart, and because her temperature wasn’t 100.4 or higher
she didn’t officially fall into the category of high risk.”
Would not common sense have told that CDC apparatchik to tell Vinson
not to fly at all, but remain in Cleveland, stay in touch with CDC and
monitor any symptoms to be sure she was not coming down with the disease
that just killed her patient?
In dealing with contagious and deadly diseases, common sense says to
err on the side of safety. Public safety must come before political
correctness. Community and country come ahead of any obligation to the
people of West Africa.
Indeed, is not the first duty of the government of the United States
to protect the lives, liberty and property of the citizens of the United
Traveling to Africa decades ago, Americans were given a series of
shots to avoid contracting indigenous diseases. Travelers to the United
States were questioned about diseases to which they may have been
exposed in Third World countries.
Now we have a government that considers it discriminatory to put
troops on our frontiers to halt the invading millions from across the
Mexican border, and the mark of a cruel and cold people to send back
lawbreakers who have broken into our country.
The two nurses who came down with this disease after close contract
with Duncan are being cared for in quarantine, as is the NBC crew, one
of whom contracted the disease. And rightly so.
As for U.S. aid workers in Africa, they are heroic. But before
bringing these good and brave people home, we ought to be sure they are
not bringing back with them the Ebola they have been fighting.
If that means quarantining them for 21 days, so be it. If that means
no commercial flights to the United States from the three most affected
countries of West Africa, and no admission to the USA of any travelers
whose visas show they have been in those countries in recent days, then
it ought to be done.
Otherwise political correctness is going to end up killing a lot of us.