Thursday, October 16, 2014

It's Time For Straight Talk

Sometimes I think we Americans live in a bubble. We go from day to day wrapped up in our own little social media world, oblivious to events happening outside our own sphere of influence. We seem to think the rights, protections and freedoms that we Americans inherit at birth make us somehow immune to the horrors that face those unfortunate souls that are not “US.”

Consequently we are stunned when the proverbial sh-t hits the fan. “How could this possibly happen?” It’s why we are dumbstruck when we see and American journalist beheaded or an American tourist thrown into jail for proselytizing. We assume that our American passports will grant us fair and equal treatment and we believe that the oceans on our borders will keep us safe from all the evil in the world. It is that bubble that has caught us apparently unprepared for the virus that has found its way to our shores.

The more we learn about the circumstances surrounding the three confirmed cases of Ebola in Dallas the more worrisome it gets. We now know that 76 health care workers treated the initial Ebola patient; Thomas Eric Duncan. We now know that many of those health care workers were not wearing protective clothing because the clothing was not available due to budgetary constraints. We know that they were not kept in isolation but were being “monitored” by the CDC and the hospital staff. We know that “monitored” means that they were asked to check their temperature regularly and be aware of any symptoms of the virus. We know they were permitted to come and go as they pleased, use mass transit and even leave the county. We know that when one of the care gives contracted a low grade fever she called the CDC, identified herself as one of the monitored care givers, and asked if she could take her scheduled flight from Cleveland to her home in Dallas. The official statement from the CDC was that “she was NOT told that she should NOT board her flight.” We know that the passengers on that plane along with the people she came in contact with in Cleveland are now being “monitored.” We know that the CDC and the hospital in Dallas where the all three patients work or were treated have admitted that they made serious mistakes in handling these cases.

What we don’t know is how many more Ebola cases are out there.

The Ebola outbreak in Africa has been front page news for weeks. Yet for some reason we seem to be caught unawares of the possibility that the virus could find its way to our shores. The CDC has been telling us for weeks that it’s no big deal. I heard one prominent health care administrator tell a cable news anchor that: “The real threat to Americans is ISIS not Ebola.” Ebola wasn’t a big deal in our little bubble; just another something happening someplace else.

Now that the Ebola virus is here all hell is breaking loose. “How can this be happening?”

This morning I watched former Bush 43 senior staffer Nicole Wallace and Morning Joe host Mika Brzezinski engage in a shreakfest over the events in Dallas. Wallace wondered aloud how we could be so unprepared given that 20 years ago the movie “Outbreak” detailed in living color the events happening in Dallas today. Perhaps basing one’s domestic policy on feature films was commonplace in the Bush administration!

Mitt Romney weighed in. As you might expect he blamed the whole thing on the president. Romney criticized the president for not securing our borders and demanded that the president order airports to refuse flights from Ebola infected areas in Africa. So to all those American businessmen, military personnel and aid workers currently operating in Africa…you aren’t coming home. Sorry about your luck!

The nonsense goes on and on and on. It makes my teeth hurt.

The truth of the matter is this is serious. The government needs to stop sugar coating things to avoid a panic and tell the American people the truth. Because the only thing that can stop the spread of this virus is the cooperation of the masses. And in order to do that they need information…not Pablum. They need to understand the seriousness of the disease, how it spreads, the symptoms that signal infection and what to do and not do if infection occurs. This information needs to be disseminated over and over and over again…from multiple sources…until the threat is removed.

Remember we Americans live in a bubble. Most Americans probably don’t know that a threat exits. It will take more than a sound bite or a few words crawling across the bottom of the “Walking Dead” to get our attention.

It all starts with the Obama administration. The president needs to formulate a plan to educate the public. Straight talk and education are the key; backed by adequate resources in the places needed.

It is not Obama’s fault that the virus has reached our shores. But it most certainly will be on him if the virus is not held in check.

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