Regarding #Ebola in Dallas, Lisa Monaco, President Obama’s senior counter-terrorism adviser, said, “The United States has the most capable health infrastructure and the most capable doctors in the world, bar none,” at a White House briefing on Oct. 3, 2014.
This raised a few questions:
- Why is a counter-terror adviser speaking about a disease? Is the White House planning air strikes on Dallas?
- Why isn’t the Surgeon General speaking about this? In fact, where is the Surgeon General?
- Is the US medical system capable of dealing with Ebola? And…
- What’s the US history with epidemics?
1) Why Is Ebola an Issue for Counter-Terror?
That first question is easy to answer. Counter-terror advisors speak because the US (“the most capable health infrastructure and the most capable doctors in the world, bar none”) doesn’t have a Surgeon General.
2) Where Is the US Surgeon General?
A year ago, Obama nominated Dr. Vivek Murthy (Harvard, Magnum cum Laude; Yale, Doctor of Medicine) for US Surgeon General. But Dr. Murthy (along with the AMA) supported ObamaCare and posted one tweet about guns as a health care issue.
So the NRA and the GOP have blocked his nomination in the Senate ever since.
3) Can the US Medical System Deal with Ebola?
How did the US medical system (“…the finest in the world…”), deal with the outbreak in Dallas?
In Liberia, Thomas Duncan helped to take a woman to the hospital; she died of ebola a few days later. He came to the US because he felt he had a better chance of survival. He walked through US Customs simply by lying in his customs form. After falling ill, he was taken by ambulance to a Dallas hospital, where he sat in the waiting hall for hours with other patients. The hospital sent him home because he was poor and didn’t have health insurance. It took several more days before his apartment was disinfected. The nurses weren’t trained to handle ebola.
What about the Center for Disease Control (CDC)? They’re responsible for management of epidemics in the US. Republicans cut its budget by half in the last six years.
So far, failure at every step. But don’t worry. Washington counter-terror experts held a press conference to assure us everything is under control.
4) How Has the USA Deal with Other Epidemics?
In the early 80s, doctors noticed young healthy men in San Francisco, NYC, and LA were dying of a very rare cancer. After identifying the disease as AIDS, it took several more years to discover the HIV virus. What was the White House response to the AIDS epidemic? Read for yourself. Here is Larry Speakes, Reagan’s White House Press Secretary, on Oct. 15, 1982:
- Q: Larry, does the President have any reaction to the announcement—the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, that AIDS is now an epidemic and have over 600 cases?
- MR. SPEAKES: What’s AIDS?
- Q: Over a third of them have died. It’s known as “gay plague.” (Laughter.) No, it is. I mean it’s a pretty serious thing that one in every three people that get this have died. And I wondered if the President is aware of it?
- MR. SPEAKES: I don’t have it. Do you? (Laughter.)
- Q: No, I don’t.
- MR. SPEAKES: You didn’t answer my question.
- Q: Well, I just wondered, does the President—
- MR. SPEAKES: How do you know? (Laughter.)
- Q: In other words, the White House looks on this as a great joke?
- MR. SPEAKES: No, I don’t know anything about it, Lester.
- Q: Does the President, does anybody in the White House know about this epidemic, Larry?
- MR. SPEAKES: I don’t think so. I don’t think there’s been any—
- Q: Nobody knows?
- MR. SPEAKES: There has been no personal experience here, Lester.
- Q: No, I mean, I thought you were keeping—
- MR. SPEAKES: I checked thoroughly with Dr. Ruge this morning and he’s had no—(laughter)—no patients suffering from AIDS or whatever it is.
- Q: The President doesn’t have gay plague, is that what you’re saying or what?
- MR. SPEAKES: No, I didn’t say that.
- Q: Didn’t say that?
- MR. SPEAKES: I thought I heard you on the State Department over there. Why didn’t you stay there? (Laughter.)
- Q: Because I love you, Larry, that’s why. (Laughter.)
- MR. SPEAKES: Oh, I see. Just don’t put it in those terms, Lester. (Laughter.)
- Q: Oh, I retract that.
- MR. SPEAKES: I hope so.
Six years after AIDS started, Washington leaped into action. In 1987, the U.S. Congress adopted the Helms Amendment (written by US Senator Jesse Helms and signed by US President Ronald Reagan) banning use of federal funds for AIDS education materials that “promote or encourage, directly or indirectly, homosexual activities,” including the use of condoms to prevent AIDS. The Helms Amendment was called “the no promo homo policy“.
- 650,000 people died of AIDS in the USA. They were mostly gay, Black, and Latino
- Black women are 6% of the US population yet they made up 50% of women with AIDS
5) What’s Next?
Ebola is growing rapidly in West Africa due to a broken medical health system and the lack of education. Researchers estimate 500,000 people will have ebola by January. About 50% will die. At some point, there will be general panic in West Africa and people will flee to the rest of the world. Will the current US medical system be able to handle that?
A better question: how will the US political system handle a disease that currently strikes Blacks?
Maybe they’ll hold another press conference?
Update: Oct. 14, 2014
Texas Presbyterian Hospital administrators kept Thomas Duncan, the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S., waiting for hours in the emergency room with up to seven other patients before placing him in isolation, according to nurses at the Dallas hospital who issued a statement Tuesday night and answered questions through the nation’s biggest nursing union.
In an unusual telephone call, RoseAnn DeMoro, the head of National Nurses United, the country’s largest nurses union, claimed:
- The hospital had no protocols in place to handle Ebola cases.
- Supervisors walked in and out of Duncan’s isolation room without proper protective gear.
- Duncan’s lab specimens were moved through the hospital’s pneumatic tube system instead of being separately sealed and delivered, and thus “the entire tube system was potentially contaminated.”
- Nurses were not fully covered in protective gear, with their wrists, necks and heads exposed to possible contamination.
DeMoro’s union conducted a survey during the past few days of 2,300 nurses in 46 states. The results are pretty shocking. More than 70% said they hadn’t been given adequate training about Ebola; 36% claimed their hospitals don’t even have sufficient supplies of face shields and fluid-resistant gowns to handle patients with the disease.
“There’s been no education in this country to hospital staffs except to refer them to the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) website,” DeMoro told the Daily News earlier in the day. “Nurses have literally been in the dark.”
More than 70% said they hadn’t been given adequate training about Ebola; 36% claimed their hospitals don’t even have sufficient supplies of face shields and fluid-resistant gowns to handle patients with the disease.