“I don’t think it’s draconian,” Christie, appearing on the Today show, said of New Jersey’s mandatory 21-day quarantine on health care workers returning from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea. “The members of the American public believe it is common sense, and we are not moving an inch. Our policy hasn’t changed and our policy will not change.” … The governor also said the CDC has been too slow to change its policies, and is now “incrementally taking steps to the policy we put in effect in New Jersey.” The CDC announced on Monday new guidelines for people traveling from West Africa, but still recommends voluntary at-home isolation rather than state-mandated quarantines.
Ben Wallace-Wells thinks “that Christie, and also [New York Governor] Cuomo, simply misread the nature of the public alarm”:
Despite the tone on cable news, and despite the wildly over-publicized decisions of a few parents in a few school districts to keep their kids home, there hasn’t been a public panic over Ebola. People are still traveling on airplanes. They are not flooding the hospitals with anxieties that minor symptoms might portend Ebola. Everyone whose job it is to predict public opinion seems to have been bracing for a panic. But it hasn’t come.
A dumb and snotty cottage industry has developed in making fun of those who are freaking out. (As I write, the most-viewed story on The New Yorker‘s website is a “humor” column by Andy Borowitz titled, “Study: Fear of Ebola Highest Among People Who Did Not Pay Attention During Math and Science Classes.”) But really there hasn’t been much excess fear at all.
For Christie, the panic wrought by the lethal virus may have seemed a prime opportunity to run his favorite play: the one where the tough leader takes a common-sense stand in the face of federal dithering. This is the move that drew bipartisan plaudits after Hurricane Sandy ravaged the Jersey shore in 2012, and one Christie may hope will propel a possible presidential candidacy in 2016. The play has worked swimmingly when run against teachers’ unions, or bungling bureaucrats, or “idiots” loitering on a stretch of beach in the face of an oncoming storm. It doesn’t wear as well when the target is a nurse who risked her life to fight a deadly disease.
The Bloomberg View editors chastise the governors:
Clearly, their decision was unnecessary and premature. Yet it also displays a worrisome disconnect in national public-health networks. Some amount of public panic is to be expected, and must be addressed. State health officials, however, should know better — both about how Ebola spreads and the dangers of mandatory quarantines. … During the SARS epidemic of 2003, public health officials learned that voluntary quarantines — simply requesting that people who might have infectious illness limit their social interactions for a period of time — are as effective as forced quarantines in helping stem an outbreak.
But Noah Rothman defends Christie from the flak he’s taking from both left and right:
Chris Christie did not deserve the left’s self-satisfied recriminations when he instituted stricter measures aimed at curtailing the spread of Ebola in America, programs which enjoy broad support, and he does not merit the scorn heaped upon him by the right for refusing to indefinitely intern a person who likely does not carry the disease. The right is deeply mistrustful of Chris Christie and, on some level, he has earned their suspicion. In this case, it is clear that apprehension among the right toward Christie is verging on compulsive and insidious. Liberals did not enjoy a victory when [Kaci] Hickox was transferred out of containment, but, by insisting Christie somehow endorsed the White House’s position, the right is busily handing them one.