Ebola may not be a widespread health crisis in the United States just yet, but it is creating a crisis of another kind — a crisis of confidence in the competence of the federal government.
Many Americans were shocked to learn that when Ebola-infected doctor Craig Spencer returned to New York City from Guinea, took a three-mile run, visited a coffee stand, ate at a meatball restaurant, traveled on three New York subway lines, met friends at a Brooklyn bowling alley and used an Uber sedan to return home, he was not violating the U.S. government’s Ebola protocols.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention instructs health workers returning from West Africa to monitor their health for 21 days and that “during the time that you are monitoring your health, you can continue your normal activities.” Only after a health worker’s temperature reaches 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit does the CDC advise that he or she go to a doctor, “limit your contact with other people” and “avoid public transportation.”
Continue your normal activities? It is simply unbelievable that this remains the official federal guidance for people who were exposed to the Ebola virus — especially after the CDC just came under fire for telling Dallas nurse Amber Vinson (who had been exposed to Ebola and had a 99.5-degree fever) that she was safe to fly on a plane with 134 passengers aboard because her temperature had not yet reached 100.4 degrees.
So bad has the CDC’s handling of Ebola been that the governors of New York and New Jersey had to step in and impose their own mandatory 21-day quarantine on health-care workers returning to their states from West Africa after treating Ebola patients.
The sad part is that the CDC was one of the last federal agencies that still enjoyed the confidence of the American people. In May 2013, 60 percent of Americans said the CDC was doing a good or excellent job. Today, that number has dropped to 37 percent, placing the CDC only a few points ahead of the scandal-plagued Internal Revenue Service and Department of Veterans Affairs.
That’s bad news for the country — and bad news for President Obama. Even before Ebola reached our shores, trust in Obama’s stewardship of the country was plummeting. Thanks to the botched Obamacare rollout, the border crisis, the VA scandal, IRS scandal, the General Services Administration scandal, the Syria “red-line” debacle and the implosion of Iraq, among other disasters at home and abroad, a July poll by Fox News found that a stunning 58 percent of Americans surveyed believed that Obama was incompetent in managing the federal government (including one-third of Democrats).
Now, his administration’s mishandling of Ebola threatens to permanently cement that public perception of incompetence in the collective American mind.
The wound is entirely self-inflicted. From the start, the president has treated Ebola like a public relations crisis rather than a health crisis — offering Americans multiple assurances that turned out to be false.
On Sept. 16, Obama promised Americans that his administration was “taking the necessary precautions . . . so that someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.” Four days later, on Sept. 20, an Ebola-infected Liberian national, Thomas Eric Duncan, flew to Dallas, where he later died in a Texas hospital.
Obama further assured Americans that “In the unlikely event that someone with Ebola does reach our shores, we’ve taken new measures so that we’re prepared here at home.” A few weeks later, two Dallas nurses contracted Ebola because, as a nurses union put it, there was “no advance preparedness on what to do with the patient, there was no protocol, there was no system.” And now, a month later, an American doctor with Ebola was taking the subway and bowling in New York — all while following federal safety guidelines.
The Ebola crisis is sapping the last vestiges of trust in the basic competence of this administration. According to the World Health Organization, Ebola now has a 70 percent death rate. When a doctor infected with Ebola is allowed to ride the New York subway with the federal government’s blessing, Americans are right to be angry. And when their president refuses to restrict U.S. travel visas for residents of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — and pressures New York and New Jersey to weaken their quarantine policy — Americans don’t believe that he is doing everything in his power to protect them.
From the Islamic State to Ebola, the world appears to be spinning out of control — and Americans sense that their president is completely out of his depth.
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