Ebola is turning out to be deadlier for Democrats in the United States than to the few who have gotten infected with the virus.
The list of known effects attributed to Ebola has grown by one: the ability to cause political confrontations among Democrats who cannot agree on whether the powers of the government in a public health issue should be based on science alone.
The proximity of the mid-term elections has seasoned he discussions among Democrat Senators, Governors and the US President, Barack Obama. Ebola has indeed infected the internal political campaign. Republicans, meanwhile, are pleased to see every new confrontation between Democrats as polls seem to show a widening lead for Republicans in the Senate.Andrew Cuomo, Governor of New York, has irritated the White House, the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio, the health authorities of the city and the group of volunteer doctors who travelled to areas affected by Ebola.
Last week Cuomo changed his calm posure on the crisis and released an alarmist message: “Hundreds can be infected in the subway system”, a claim that was supported by his Republican counterpart in New Jersey, Chris Christie. They have both ordered that all health workers who have fought the epidemic in West Africa must pass a mandatory 21-day quarantine before entering the United States.
After a weekend under pressure from Washington and medical groups, Cuomo agreed on Sunday to carry out the quarantine in the health worker´s home, but not before remembering that his obligation is to make the best decisions for his state, that the guidelines provided by the White House and the CDC may be changed by the governors and that he acts on the “here and now”.
The White House has not only pushed Cuomo and Christie, but other governors and mayors in the country to attemting to make them follow the rules dictated from Washington and the CDC. Since New York and New Jersey decided to take extreme measures against Ebola, two other states, Illinois and Florida, have signed orders to the same effect.
The Obama Administration fears a race of States who may adopts more stringent measures, which according to him may be a move that would increase public concern, in addition to scaring and discouraging medical personnel who are now involved in combating the disease.
In line with this, the Federal Government, through the CDC, ruled out Monday that a quarantine is necessary, except in cases of infection or symptoms thereof, and established as a standard to follow for those doctors on their return from Africa. The measure, which establishes different levels of risk to healthcare workers, will not be to the liking of the states that have opted for more restrictive decisions.
“My job is to protect the people of New York, said Cuomo on Sunday night. He was joined by New ork City mayor De Blasio, who asked Cuomo for more flexibility to avoid he sense that there is a lack of respect towads health workers.
Criticism against Cuomo started after a nurse, Kaci Hickox, was isolated in New Jersey after the new protocols were applied. Hickox said that the treatment she was receiving was “inhuman” and criticized the state governor, Chris Christie, for saying, without any scientific basis, that “I was sick with Ebola”.
“If he knew anything about the virus, he should know that asymptomatic people are not infectious,” said the nurse.”We have to gauge how well we treat these people who have done a noble job. The treatment received by Hickox was inappropriate. We must do better than that” reported De Blasio, who was not consulted by Cuomo or Christie on measures adopted last Friday.
As an example of how negative Cuomo´s measure has been, the White House cites a growing struggle to find volunteers who can work at the 17 units of treatment for Ebola among US military personnel in Liberia.
For this reason, they have been forced to accept professionals from other countries, including Cuba. “It’s worrisome. Every time a politician sticks his nose into this, doctors question whether the sacrifice is worth it,” said James P. Mitchum.
Another fear the CDC cites is that doctors and other health workers from New York and New Jersey return from affected countries through other airports, to avoid compulsory quarantine. Scientists and public health experts have sent a letter to Governor Cuomo asking him to end his restrictive measures.
States, according to the Constitution, have power to impose a quarantine. The problem, critics say, is that this meaasure is limiting the freedom of asymptomatic persons, such as in the case of nurse Hickox.