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Jimmy Sengenberger

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Battlefield CO: Gardner Stands Strong on Ebola

October 16, 2014 2014 Elections, Issues, Seng Center Blog 2014 elections, Africa, Barack Obama, Battlefield Colorado, CDC, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Colorado, Cory Gardner, Ebola, Marv Treiger, Tom Frieden, U.S. Senate

Ebola-GardnerCory Gardner is in Washington D.C. today to press the case for a temporary travel ban from West African countries affected by Ebola.  The ban would stay in effect until we are confident we have the capacity to handle an outbreak and until we know more about the disease.  He is attending the hearing of the House Energy & Commerce Committee as a member of the Oversight Panel.  He stated:

This hearing will give us the opportunity to determine the different routes we can take to prevent the spread of Ebola, including a travel ban on flights to and from the affected countries in West Africa, as well as 100 percent virus screening for passengers whose travels originated from or passed through West Africa.

Cory has been at the forefront of this indispensable step in protecting our citizens.  He raised this issue last week in his debate with Mark Udall and called for a ban on all flights.  His early opposition to Obama’s “open borders” position on Ebola showed foresight and leadership.  Since then, the Administration’s approach has been increasingly in tatters.

The long pattern of making promises – on Obamacare, on the V.A., on Syria, on the IRS – then not keeping those promises has eroded credibility and trust.  Is it any wonder that trust is further diminished when a similar pattern emerges in the Ebola crisis.

Obama and CDC Director Dr. Frieden have from the beginning sought to reassure Americans that we have the problem under control.  On September 19, Obama declared “an” Ebola outbreak in America as having exceedingly low-probability.

We now have an outbreak and Obama has just declared that a “widespread” outbreak has exceedingly low probability.  The CDC Director said before Congress that a “large” outbreak is unlikely.  No matter how big the outbreak gets you get the sense that if it worsens further a spokesman will spin it as a new low probability scenario.

It is certainly prudent not to unduly frighten people but changing the adjective without ever taking responsibility for having changed the story ultimately leads to an unnecessarily frightened population – the very thing you are seeking to avoid.

Obama has refused to halt flights from West Africa and has authorization to send 3,900 U.S. troops there, 500 of whom have already arrived.  Today an executive order was issued to call up National Guard troops to “speed up the process” of deployment.  How this speeds up the process is beyond me.  Don’t they have to be trained as well?  It is likely just an effort to show that something is being done.

The U.S. 101st Airborne is currently in training to be deployed in the Ebola zones.  To do what?  Build facilities it is said.  It is hard to believe and probably likely that – with whatever “training” such a force is likely to receive – probabilities will increase for exposure and prove to be another entry point for Ebola.

These are “boots on the ground” of a sort that is highly dubious.  Health professionals are one thing.  Compassion and our own self-interest suggest we do what we can to help these wretched peoples but only if done properly.  Sending our troops into harm’s way when our knowledge is still at a minimum, is madness.

These policies are insane and reckless.  A travel ban makes common sense and medical sense.  The travel and visa ban should be temporary until we can assess and establish a system for handling any cases that do enter the country, or having entered, have the possibility of contagion.

The UK and France have instituted bans.  Kenya, Cape Verde, South Sudan, Cameroon, Senegal, Gambia, Rwanda, Chad, Namibia and other African nations have instituted total land, air and water travel bans.  Fourteen other African countries have other limited restrictions.  A number of these countries have had outbreaks already and that no doubt informs their policies.

The Administration has offered a variety of justifications for not adopting a travel ban.  None of these bear the smell test.  First, they argued that a travel ban would keep U.S. health workers and military personnel from entering and leaving West African countries.  Many pointed out that special charter flights would address this problem and be safer all around because of the precautions taken on non-commercial, specially designated flights.

Next, they argued that banning flights would hurt the economies of those countries.  This would arguably have a negligible effect.  We are talking of 150 people a day coming from that region and their business could be handled through other means of communication.  Even if this has some truth, risking the spread of the disease to an unprepared America or other parts of the world hardly improves the West Africans..

The other day the CDC doubled down on this argument by saying that if the economy suffered, there would be more cases and thus the disease would spread even more.  No historical or case studies that I know of have been offered to back up these claims.

Then suddenly today, Frieden, speaking before the House Committee, offered another new argument: people will find indirect ways of getting here and thus we will not be able to track them as well.  Now, if the CDC Director means going through our southern porous border, he may have a point.

Obama repeated the CDC Director’s argument in remarks today but carefully mentioned this is what the experts were telling him.

Do any of these folks have common sense.  Think about it.  If folks are desperate to get here because the U.S. alone is able to potentially heal them when they know they have been exposed, they can simply lie when boarding the plane as the ill are symptom free for up to 21 days.

If they are already ill and turned away, then they might still seek another avenue into the country that is harder to track.  The argument falls on its face.

These are excuses for an irrational policy stemming from Obama and probably coming from a mix of “political gain” and “political correctness.”  Obama seeks to reassure us that little is amiss on the eve of an election.

Prioritizing calm over national security suggests a political motive just as it did in 2012 around the Benghazi Affair.  Benghazi was downplayed and we were reassured that Al Queda was on the road to defeat and a “video” caused the murders of our Ambassador and three other Americans.

Once again, elections are around the corner and Obama’s strategy of postponing hard truths seems at work here.

As for “political correctness,” descendants of the American slaves who migrated back to Africa and other suffering Africans must not be “discriminated” against or profiled.  Don’t they deserve the benefits of our advanced health system?  I can’t say this is truly their view but, darn it, it fits with everything else this Administration has done along these lines.

Or perhaps, we have yet one more example of inattention and the inability to act until it is nearly or already too late.  Obama is our Temporizer-in-Chief.

The CDC reassured us last week that excellent hospitals – such as Dallas Presbyterian Hospital – using protocols and protective gear would not be subject to infection.  Now two Dallas nurses have been diagnosed with the disease and no-one knows how the transmission took place.

The second nurse was cleared by the CDC to fly from Cleveland back to Dallas with a 99.5 degree temperature despite her proximity to the ill patient on monday.  The safe cut-off temperature was deemed to be 100.4 degrees but this wasn’t correlated with someone with high level exposure like the nurse.

It now turns out that the family of the nurse said she was already ill on friday when she initially flew to Cleveland.  It would be unfair to criticize these noble souls who risk their own necks to help others but this  is a case of family members raising important questions with potentially great consequences.

The virus may be passed by droplets in sneezing or coughing if active.  It may also survive on surfaces for hours or if in fluids (airplane toilets) for days.  One Frontier airline that made many trips has been taken off line and another has been cleaned nine times.

These two nurses have now each been transferred to one of four sites in the U.S. equipped for this level of bio-contamination.  The Dallas experience proved that even an ordinary, excellent hospital was not safe.  Four sites that, let us assume, are safe could easily be overwhelmed with more cases and then what do we do?

Nancy Snyderman, an NBC correspondent and team leader was working in Africa with her crew.  Her cameraman came down with Ebola and she and others were placed in voluntary quarantine.  She left quarantine to go shopping thus giving rise to fear and possible transmission of the virus.

Quarantines of varying degrees now include hundreds of Americans in a number of states.  Marine Corps General John Kelly, head of Southern Command, warns that if Ebola spreads to South America, we have no ability to protect the border and avert catastrophe.

Nurses are protesting nationwide that they have not been prepared with interactive training.  Flight attendants are also experiencing anxiety and demanding equipment and training.

Why not err on the side of caution?  Why not proceed slowly and carefully with what is demonstrably unsettled science?

Why not set politics and political correctness aside?  Instituting a temporary travel ban in no way stops us from taking other measures such as aiding those in Africa combating the disease.

It does give us time to get our ducks in a row.

Time grows short.