So two power-hungry, corrupt, thuggish governors, New Jersey’s Chris Christie and New York’s Andrew Cuomo, have decided to enact their own public health Ebola policy. What could possibly go wrong?
Well, according to Doctors Without Borders, one of their nurses who returned to the U.S. and sort of tested positive for Ebola (we’ll return that later), is currently being held in quarantine under these conditions (boldface mine):
Upon arrival at Newark University Hospital, Ms. Hickox was placed in a tent set up as an isolation ward adjacent to the main hospital building. Her temperature was again taken with an oral thermometer and was normal.
Hospital personnel are keeping her in isolation and have not informed her of any next steps, including additional blood tests to confirm Ebola infection with certainty.
She has been issued with an order of quarantine, which does not clearly indicate how long she must remain in isolation.
While she is being provided with food and water, the tent is not heated and she is dressed in uncomfortable paper scrubs. She was permitted to bring personal belongings into the tent.
That’s right: in the Greatest Nation on Earth, the Indispensable Nation, God’s Gift to Humanity, and so on, we can’t even keep someone who could possibly be infected with a lethal disease in a heated room. The low last night in Newark was 50˙F (10˙C).
This is the fucking plan? To keep potentially sick people outside in 50˙F weather? (Mind you, even if she does have a fever, it could be something other than Ebola). I realize the hospital is where Newark Airport patients are usually taken, but this is the KILLER DEATH VIRUS. Shouldn’t we be taking patients to, I don’t know, a room with four walls? And heat? It seems like New Jersey is making it up as they go along.
Sadly, that’s not even the most disconcerting thing about this whole response. According to the nurse, here’s how the diagnosis of fever was reached (boldface mine):
Then he escorted me to the quarantine office a few yards away. I was told to sit down. Everyone that came out of the offices was hurrying from room to room in white protective coveralls, gloves, masks, and a disposable face shield.
One after another, people asked me questions. Some introduced themselves, some didn’t. One man who must have been an immigration officer because he was wearing a weapon belt that I could see protruding from his white coveralls barked questions at me as if I was a criminal.
Two other officials asked about my work in Sierra Leone. One of them was from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. They scribbled notes in the margins of their form, a form that appeared to be inadequate for the many details they are collecting.
I was tired, hungry and confused, but I tried to remain calm. My temperature was taken using a forehead scanner and it read a temperature of 98. I was feeling physically healthy but emotionally exhausted.
Three hours passed. No one seemed to be in charge. No one would tell me what was going on or what would happen to me.
I called my family to let them know that I was OK. I was hungry and thirsty and asked for something to eat and drink. I was given a granola bar and some water. I wondered what I had done wrong.
Four hours after I landed at the airport, an official approached me with a forehead scanner. My cheeks were flushed, I was upset at being held with no explanation. The scanner recorded my temperature as 101.
The female officer looked smug. “You have a fever now,” she said.
I explained that an oral thermometer would be more accurate and that the forehead scanner was recording an elevated temperature because I was flushed and upset.
I was left alone in the room for another three hours. At around 7 p.m., I was told that I must go to a local hospital. I asked for the name and address of the facility. I realized that information was only shared with me if I asked.
Eight police cars escorted me to the University Hospital in Newark. Sirens blared, lights flashed. Again, I wondered what I had done wrong….
At the hospital, I was escorted to a tent that sat outside of the building. The infectious disease and emergency department doctors took my temperature and other vitals and looked puzzled. “Your temperature is 98.6,” they said. “You don’t have a fever but we were told you had a fever.”
After my temperature was recorded as 98.6 on the oral thermometer, the doctor decided to see what the forehead scanner records. It read 101. The doctor felt my neck and looked at the temperature again. “There’s no way you have a fever,” he said. “Your face is just flushed.”
My blood was taken and tested for Ebola. It came back negative.
It’s not clear that she’s febrile–she doesn’t appear to have a fever at all–which is not stopping Governor Christie from describing her as “obviously ill.” Because misrepresenting facts is a great way to engender trust.
Admittedly, this is her side of the story, but reading her account, it’s almost as if customs officials had concluded that they were going to quarantine her, and were trying to find a way to do so. Though it would be inconceivable to think that U.S. security forces might force facts to fit an unsupported conclusion.
Here’s the kicker. On the off chance she does have Ebola, will the State of New Jersey force hospital personnel to remain in quarantine as well? What about all of the people who interrogated her? Will they be quarantined as well? (
and what about Kevin Bacon?) Most importantly, have they even considered this question? (I’m guessing no).
Christie and Cuomo are handling this worse than Texas Gov. Rick Perry did. For those of you in the slow sarcasm group, that’s not a compliment.
This is not a good development.