Bob Marshall: McAuliffe Ebola policy ineffective
While Governor Terry McAuliffe said Monday he will not impose mandatory quarantine on travelers from Ebola prevalent countries, the U.S. Defense Department is doing precisely that to eleven of its top soldiers, including Army Major General Darryl A. Williams, commander of U.S. Army Africa. All are Ebola symptom free but had been in West Africa.
It is clear that Virginia, by following the CDC policy of checking for symptoms from symptom free carriers of Ebola, will not adequately protect the public. Both Mr. Duncan, who lied about his background and later died in Dallas, and Dr. Craig Spencer were symptom free upon entry to the US. Thus, Dr. Spencer who passed the CDC screening was freely going about his business all over New York including use of mass transit.
Why is the U.S. Government quarantining soldiers who may not have even had contact with Ebola patients, while the Governor McAuliffe allows persons whose Ebola backgrounds cannot be verified by a CDC questionnaire to travel all around Virginia and elsewhere as long as they take their temperature twice a day?
Where will our state/local Health Departments get personnel to effectively distance monitor the numbers of people this may involve? David Trump of the VA Health Department told the Washington Post (Oct. 22) that Virginia could be monitoring hundreds of people in the 21 day period–he cited the possibility of up to 20 entrants a day at Dulles which would mean tracking 420 persons over the course of 21 days.
Gov. McAuliffe is at a liability because the Obama administration has not followed the successful lead of Nigeria and Senegal which are now Ebola free for 42 days, because while they did contact tracing, they blocked all travel from the affected countries. Talking points given to Gov. McAuliffe by the President or CDC will not protect us from Ebola.
Letting non-citizens enter Dulles Airport with a potentially deadly infectious disease to travel around Virginia is negligent. Self monitoring might work with most medical personnel, but to assume that foreign nationals will be accessible at all times without enforced monitoring is unrealistic, especially if they came here seeking possible medical assistance. Will the Health Department issue cell phones to these travelers, and how will they compel compliance? How will they be tracked?
The Commonwealth has health-related duties to the people of Virginia. The U.S. government may not be making the decisions that work best for the people of Virginia, but the Commonwealth should be, and the Governor has that authority. Anything short of preserving our public safety-based gatekeeping power is not acceptable.
We should be trying to prevent the first case in Virginia, not just plan a response.