Centers for Disease Control Director Tom Frieden took to the Fox News website to explain “Why I don’t support a travel ban to combat Ebola outbreak.” Unfortunately, he offers no real reasons:
That response is understandable. It’s only human to want to protect ourselves and our families. We want to defend ourselves, so isn’t the fastest, easiest solution to put up a wall around the problem?
But, as has been said, for every complex problem, there’s a solution that’s quick, simple, and wrong.
Note that the emphasis is in the original — both bold and italic. It must be really, really wrong.
It’s simply not feasible to build a wall – virtual or real – around a community, city, or country. A travel ban would essentially quarantine the more than 22 million people that make up the combined populations of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea.
First of all, it is indeed possible; it seems that American Samoa completely avoided the 1918 flu epidemic that killed millions, including up to one-fourth of the population in neighboring Western Samoa, by quarantining itself. And if the CDC director is against quarantine, then we shouldn’t be quarantining Thomas Eric Duncan’s family members either, right?
When a wildfire breaks out we don’t fence it off. We go in to extinguish it before one of the random sparks sets off another outbreak somewhere else.
Actually, we do both; we “fence off” forest fires with firebreaks.
We don’t want to isolate parts of the world, or people who aren’t sick, because that’s going to drive patients with Ebola underground, making it infinitely more difficult to address the outbreak.
What does this even mean? People who can’t fly here from Liberia, Sierra Leone, or Guinea will “go underground” where?
It could even cause these countries to stop working with the international community as they refuse to report cases because they fear the consequences of a border closing.
Really? Liberia’s going to say to the WHO, the CDC, the U.S. Army, and everyone else trying to help them avoid mass death that “If you won’t let Liberians who are infected but not symptomatic fly to your country and possibly infect your people, then we don’t want your help!” Sure.
Stopping planes from flying from West Africa would severely limit the ability of Americans to return to the United States or of people with dual citizenship to get home, wherever that may be.
A travel ban would apply to foreigners; U.S. citizens may return to their country whenever they want. In such cases, though, quarantine would seem to be required. Unless, you know, the CDC director is against that, too.
In addition to not stopping the spread of Ebola, isolating countries will make it harder to respond to Ebola, creating an even greater humanitarian and health care emergency.
This is simply offered as an assertion.
Importantly, isolating countries won’t keep Ebola contained and away from American shores. Paradoxically, it will increase the risk that Ebola will spread in those countries and to other countries, and that we will have more patients who develop Ebola in the U.S.
Again, no evidence offered, just feelings. How would a travel ban “increase the risk that Ebola will spread” in Liberia? The only way that sentence makes sense is that if Liberians infected with Ebola are made to stay in their own country, they’ll infect more people there, whereas if they’re allowed to travel to the U.S., they’ll infect people here instead. Yay!
People will move between countries, even when governments restrict travel and trade. And that kind of travel becomes almost impossible to track.
Sorry, but if Thomas Eric Duncan had not been permitted to board a plane for Brussels and then the U.S., he couldn’t have come here and we would not have had to deal with him. It’s not like he was a Bond villain with unlimited resources come here in ways “almost impossible to track”; he was a truck driver who would have stayed in Monrovia but for our demented unwillingness to temporarily ban travel to the U.S.
Isolating communities also increases people’s distrust of government, making them less likely to cooperate to help stop the spread of Ebola.
And Americans have sooooo much trust in government’s ability to
build a website protect the borders guard the White House tell the truth ”stop the spread of Ebola.” And what does “isolating communities” mean, anyway? The proposal is not to set up an armed cordon around Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, but simply to temporarily ban travel from those places to the U.S. Other countries have done it, why are we not allowed to?
Restricting travel or trade to and from a community makes the disease spread more rapidly in the isolated area, eventually putting the rest of the country at even greater risk.
So he really does mean that Liberians have to be allowed to flee the disease by flying to the United States. Is that the official position of the U.S. government? Inquiring minds want to know.
To provide relief to West Africa, borders must remain open and commercial flights must continue.
I want President Obama to state this plainly — preferably before the election.
There is no more effective way to protect the United States against additional Ebola cases than to address this outbreak at the source in West Africa. That’s what our international response—including the stepped-up measures the president announced last month—will do.
No doubt, but how about we walk and chew gum at the same time? Keep Liberians et al. out for the time being and send help to “address the outbreak at the source”? Is this really so difficult to comprehend?
Casting too wide a net, such as invoking travel bans, would only provide an illusion of security and would lead to prejudice and stigma around those in West Africa.
Ah, so now we get to the nub of the matter: “prejudice and stigma around those in West Africa.” Calling for a travel ban is racist! If only the disease came from Scandinavia instead of tropical Africa, then we could impose a travel ban.
Today, all outbound passengers from Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone are screened for Ebola symptoms before they board an airplane
So was Thomas Eric Duncan.
Combined, these U.S. airports receive almost 95 percent of the American-bound travelers from the Ebola-affected countries.
So the worthless screening, which is incapable of catching Ebola-barriers before they start showing symptoms, actually misses 5 percent of travelers from Ebola countries?
Travelers from those countries will be escorted to an area of the airport set aside for screening.
And who’s going to be cleaning that area of the airport? Certainly not these guys, who went on strike this week because of Ebola-related safety concerns.
There they will be observed for signs of illness, asked a series of health and exposure questions, and given information on Ebola and information on monitoring themselves for symptoms for 21 days.
So they’ll get a brochure and be sent on their way, presumably after promising not to sneeze on anybody.
When countries are isolated, we cannot get medical supplies and personnel efficiently to where they’re needed – making it impossible to fight the virus in West Africa.
How did our 3,000 soldiers get there, by hopping on United? I’m pretty sure we have spare planes to fly in aid workers and supplies.
As the WHO’s Gregory Hartl said recently, “Travel restrictions don’t stop a virus. If airlines stop flying to West Africa, we can’t get the people that we need to combat this outbreak, and we can’t get the food and the fuel and other supplies that people there need to survive.”
Of course, airlines can do whatever they please; we’d simply be banning anyone from there coming into the U.S. But if the argument is that a U.S. travel ban would cause (even more) airlines to stop flights to Monrovia, Freetown, and Conakry, then the clear implication is that Americans must expose themselves to increased risk of Ebola so that people in West Africa continue to have access to imported goods. Really? Let’s poll-test that.
Until Ebola is controlled in West Africa, we cannot get the risk to zero here in the United States
True enough, but we can get it closer to zero than it is now. And our government refuses to do that.
As Scott McConnell notes, among our elites “the belief that everyone in the world has some kind of civil right to get on a plane and fly to Dallas or Newark is pervasive.” But not among the public; the majority support a travel ban by nearly three to one, 58 to 20, with the rest undecided. House Democrat Alan Grayson was the first lawmaker to call for a travel ban, now joined by dozens of Republicans (including Bobby Jindal) and several Democrats, including Florida Senator Bill Nelson. (Marco Rubio does not seem to have taken a position yet, and Rick Perry agreed with Obama in opposing a travel ban.)
This should be a litmus-test issue — any candidate for office who isn’t for a temporary ban on travel from countries where a dangerous infectious disease is running rampant simply cannot be trusted with oversight of America’s security.
Editor’s Note: This post has been amended since its initial posting.