In lieu of a full-on travel ban, which would probably be counterproductive, the government has imposed new restrictions to ensure that travelers from Ebola-afflicted countries enter the US via airports with enhanced screening procedures:
The Department of Homeland Security on Tuesday announced that travelers from Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea—the three countries at the center of the Ebola outbreak—will have to fly into the U.S. through one of five airports: New York’s JFK, Washington D.C.’s Dulles, Atlanta, Chicago O’Hare, and Newark, N.J. Those are the same five airports where officials began secondary screenings of travelers from those countries earlier this month.
The new rules went into effect today. Mataconis approves:
Since the majority of arrivals from the nations in question apparently already come through one of these airports, this is not likely to be a severe disruption to air travel and, at the very least, it seems far more cost effective and efficient than stationing personnel at every possible entry point in order to catch the relative handful of passengers who might arrive somewhere other than these five airports.
So, temperature checks for all west African passengers at five of America’s biggest airports, which will now exclusively handle international flights that made connections from Africa. There’s lots of buzz about that online as I write this but it’s virtually no different from what we’re already doing. Temperature checks at those five airports were ordered 10 days ago; those airports were chosen because they already handle 94 percent of passengers from west Africa traveling to the United States. From what I can tell, the only change that’s been made today is requiring the remaining six percent to connect to one of those airports too to ensure that everyone from west Africa entering the U.S. is subject to a temperature screening.
But Bryan Walsh stresses that the chances of an actual outbreak in the US were extremely low even before the new airport policy:
For all the demand to ban commercial travel to and from Ebola-hit West Africa, this region is barely connected to the U.S. in any case. Only about 150 people from that area of Africa come to the U.S. every day—less than a single full Boeing 757—and many airlines have already stopped flying. But there have been relatively few spillover cases even in African countries that are much more closer and more connected to Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. Besides Nigeria, only Senegal has had cases connected to the West African outbreak—and that nation was declared Ebola-free today as well. (There have been cases in the Democratic Republic of Congo, but that’s considered a separate outbreak.) The worst Ebola outbreak ever is raging in three very poor nations—but it seems unable to establish itself anywhere else. … Even the risk of another Duncan doesn’t seem high.
Ambinder sizes up the response of US officials thus far:
In cataloging some of the early missteps, Ron Fournier writes, “Once again, Americans are reminded of the limits of U.S. social institutions — in this case various state, local, and federal government agencies and private-sector health systems that responded to the Ebola crisis slowly, inefficiently, and with a lack of candor that Americans, unfortunately, have come to expect.”
Sorry, no. They responded quickly, and in doing so, overlooked some of the basics. Then, within hours, they corrected their oversights. The limits of U.S. social institutions? Well, they’re reminded by those limits by people who have set exceptionally high expectations for government, expectations which cannot possibly be met by mortals. Actually, Americans should have faith that the CDC can prevent major epidemics like Ebola. But politicians are willfully or stupidly spreading misinformation.
As are their enablers in the right-wing press:
Indeed, the neoconservative Weekly Standard’s lead editorial this week was entitled “Six Reasons to Panic,” while the Washington Post featured an op-ed by Marc Thiessen, a right-wing Republican commentator and fellow at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), depicting a “nightmare scenario” in which “suicide bombers infected with Ebola could blow themselves up in a crowded place—say, shopping malls in Oklahoma City, Philadelphia and Atlanta—spreading infected tissue and bodily fluids.” Commentators on Rupert Murdoch’s Fox News have conjured similar scenarios.
You gotta admit that Ebola-filled ISIS suicide bombers is a brilliant touch of hathos. Speaking of which:
(Photo: Employees of the airport emergency medical service on October 17, 2014 make a test with an electronic thermometer as part of the fight against Ebola virus at the Roissy-Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Roissy-en-France, suburb of Paris, before carrying out health checks on travelers arriving from Guinea, one of the worst-hit nations alongside Liberia and Sierra Leone. France joins Britain, the United States and Canada in screening travellers for the disease. By Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP/Getty Images)