The fault with Ebola can be spread far and wide. Start with our Homeland security not seeing Ebola as a threat. Move to a do-nothing congress unwilling to fund research and development, equipment and training. Then look at a racist, hubris filled country which did not demand action while this disease was decimating African nations and believes that somehow chanting USA! USA! makes us better and more capable than other nations. That is the pot.
Next add a drug industry uninterested in developing medications and treatments for conditions and diseases which don’t pay and instead concentrate on developing drugs for men (Viagra, Cialis) and the wealthy (Botox, Cancer treatments). Stir in apathy and a large portion of unwillingness to see beyond the bottom line.
Bring to a boil over a fire of mistaken belief that Americans are John Wayne clones who can handle any threat with enough gun fire.
Now go to Texas where these beliefs are exaggerated. Enter a corporate hospital where oversight is slack, and budgeting focuses on corporate gain instead of patient care. Investment in employee training and personal protective equipment is minimal, despite the deaths overseas and the growth of local refugee populations. Overconfidence and lack of understanding of the situation upon patient admission left any who came in contact exposed. The incompetence and lack of training of the state and local health departments as well as the hospital’s concerns about liability (nurses were advised to use their best judgement) combined with a media mandate to minimize the threat in order to not “cause a panic” despite the very facts they were reporting, to create an environment in which contamination and transmission were practically guaranteed.
Finally, sprinkle liberally with a health care system that encourages the poor to stay away from diagnosis and treatment until they are in extremis and you have not just a recipe, but a mandate for disaster. At each level ignorance, greed, overconfidence, dodging of responsibility and racism are putting not just Americans, but the entire hemisphere at risk.
However, this is hardly the time to be divesting ourselves of experts. Reporters at CNN stated “Americans don’t want to be told to stay at home and watch daytime TV for three weeks”. Of course we don’t. But, it doesn’t matter what we want now. It doesn’t matter what the bottom line is. It doesn’t matter how many guns you have or what political party you belong to. We have to put all that aside, admit it and deal with it.
Ebola is a deadly epidemic and it’s here. It’s in Dallas, and it’s quite possibly cropping up in other Texas cities, in New Haven, Connecticut and perhaps Ohio. It will show up in other places. We can’t close our borders to disease. A wall won’t keep it out. America is going to have to buckle down and prepare. We will have to spend money. We will have to learn something. We will have to train people.
We don’t have time to argue about blame. That will have to wait. We need to get to work. Together.