The latest YouGov poll illustrates how quickly Americans have moved on from freaking out about the disease and the government’s response to it, indicating that media sensationalism and partisan politics infected far more Americans than Ebola ever will:
Republicans have exhibited the greatest change. At the end of October, 67% of Republicans said the government wasn’t doing enough to contain the Ebola outbreak. That percentage has dropped 28 points. Just 39% of Republicans now say the government isn’t doing enough. There is also less interest in increasing government spending to deal with the outbreak. Just one in four today would increase government spending on Ebola research, down from 36% at the end of October.
But perhaps the most striking example of public satisfaction with the government’s performance is the change in the way Americans evaluate the President’s performance. For the first time in two months, more Americans approve of the way Barack Obama is handling this situation than disapprove.
Josh Marshall even suspects that Christie has quietly retired his draconian quarantine policy for health workers returning from West Africa, though he can’t seem to get a straight answer out of the state of New Jersey. There’s also some good news on the international front:
the World Health Organization reports that the number of Ebola cases has stopped increasing in Guinea and Liberia, though they are still on the rise in Sierra Leone, while Mali seems to be keeping its second minor outbreak under control.
But even if outbreaks have peaked, that doesn’t mean these countries’ troubles are over. Last week, Abby Haglage called attention to warning signs of an “Ebola famine” in Liberia:
[Last] Tuesday, Mercy Corps published (PDF) a shocking finding: 90 percent of Liberian households are reducing the amount of food they eat at each meal, and 85 percent are actually eating fewer meals than they were before the health crisis. In a country where food was already scarce, slimmed-down portions could be the difference between life and death. A vendor in Monrovia told Mercy Corps investigators that she and her eight children can no longer afford to eat 10 cups of rice a day. They’ve cut rations down to eight. Simultaneously on Tuesday, the UN Human Rights campaign released a statement warning that West Africa may be “on the brink of a major food crisis” due to Ebola.
A new World Bank report confirms just how much damage the epidemic has done to Liberians’ livelihoods:
To measure the economic impact of that devastation, the World Bank, Liberian Institute of Statistics and Geo-Information Services and the Gallup Organization conducted phone surveys and found that not only is a massive part of the country’s work force out of job, but food insecurity is worsening. Wage workers and the self-employed have taken the biggest hit, the report finds. Prior to the epidemic, more than 30% of working household breadwinners were self-employed, but now that rate is just above 10%. Many people lost jobs because their business or government offices closed.