Second Rule of Preventing an Ebola Outbreak: Do not listen to Ted Cruz

It isn’t often Texas governor Rick Perry displays a moment of competency, and this one is definitely worth talking about.

Regarding the man currently being treated for Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Dallas, Perry said:

“There are few places in the world better equipped to meet the challenge that is posed in this case. … The public should have every confidence that the highly trained professionals involved here will succeed in this very important mission.”

I guess the smartguy glasses are working.

I guess the smartguy glasses are working

Much of the public panic over this disease largely stems from an abject failure to understand anything about it. The news isn’t entirely to blame for this; while mainstream outlets are milking this case for all the sensationalism it is worth, most articles have been quite clear in how the virus is transmitted from host to host. The bare fact of the matter, what many Americans just can’t seem to get through their thick skulls, is that Ebola has been enormously successful in West Africa because the region is seriously lacking infrastructure, technology, education and public trust. The governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone are, by all measure, manifestly ill-equipped to combat the Ebola virus. We, however, are not.

There are 15 facilities within the United States uniquely purposed to study Biosafety Level 4 (BSL 4) agents like Ebola. Three of them (Two in Galveston, one in San Antonio) are less than three hundred miles away from Dallas. But these ultra-secure facilities are not even required to treat EVD. Any hospital can be fitted with an isolation chamber that would keep infected individuals far enough away from the general population.

Still, Ebola is scary shit. I’ve read The Hot Zone. I get that.

Running around, waving our arms and screaming, however, isn’t going to help.

This will not protect you from Ebola.

But that is precisely, in a manner of speaking, what GOP politicians across the country are proposing we do.

Let’s take a look at their plans, one-by-painful-one:

Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky declared on “The Laura Ingraham Show” that “this could get beyond our control” and worried, “Can you imagine if a whole ship full of our soldiers catch Ebola?”

The perennial libertarian, Rand Paul’s solution to the Ebola outbreak is stand around doing nothing, worrying about soldiers.

And this asshole’s an MD.

Sen. Ted Cruz — Perry’s Texas colleague — raised the prospect of restricting or banning flights to the West African countries that are hardest hit by the disease, noting in a letter to the Federal Aviation Administration that some African nations and certain airlines have already imposed their own flight bans.

Perry’s fellow Texan and GOP presidential hopeful isn’t especially bright on most of the issues that don’t matter. Why would we think he’d anything useful to contribute to those that do?

Travel bans are a spurious proposition. Ostensibly the idea makes sense — cutting off travel to and from a specific place would keep that place’s endemic diseases endemic — but it all falls apart once you realize what’s being proposed. How, pray tell, does one cut off travel to, say, Liberia or Sierra Leone? Sure, we might prohibit airlines originating from those places from landing in the United States, but unless every other country on Earth enacts the same ban the measure is entirely fruitless.

Look at it like this: if the United States prohibits travel to and from Liberia, there’s still nothing stopping Liberians from traveling to an intermediary country first, and then traveling to the United States. And in that scenario, you have passengers arriving in the United States with dubious travel histories, while if they had arrived directly from an affected region identifying them as potential risks would have been relatively easy.

Cutting off travel to and from West Africa would not only do nothing to stop the spread of Ebola to the United States, it would actually make containment more difficult. Cruz would have known this had he actually read a few of the peer-reviewed papers his precious tax dollars paid for, but then he’d have to admit government-funded academic research is actually a good thing.

Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin floated the idea of quarantining airline passengers in the affected African countries before they could fly out. “We’re learning a lot about how it’s spread but the question is ‘How can a person just jump on a plane and get here without a quarantine period of 21 days,’ which I believe is recommended,” he said on a radio talk show Wednesday. A spokesman for Ryan says the congressman misspoke and was referencing a recommendation to be monitored for 21 days.

If “stupid” were a species of truffle, Paul Ryan would have been born a pig. But even if we take Ryan’s spokesman at his word that the congressman did, in fact, misspeak (as opposed to simply not knowing what the fuck he was talking about… a problem the congressman often faces), this still makes no sense whatsoever.

“Monitor” people for 21 days? How in the name of Jesus H. Fuck are you going to do that? Have someone follow tourists around from Phoenix to the Grand Canyon and back? Stick 4G-capable thermometers up their asses so we’ll know immediately if they spike a fever?

There’s no point exploring the question any further because it is clear Paul Ryan isn’t posing this suggestion with the intention of seeing it through. It isn’t serious. It’s a jab at the president, because taking jabs at the president is all congressional Republicans can be bothered to do these days.

Now, last but not least:

And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal says the United States should cut off flights from those countries. “President Obama said it was ‘unlikely’ that Ebola would reach the U.S. Well, it has, and we need to protect our people,” he said in a statement Friday.

You really have to hand it to Bobby Jindal. The man takes the Republican-patented blend of cynicism and laziness to a whole new level. He literally has no plan whatsoever, but seized the moment anyway to toss an unqualified dig at the president… for reasons that require no further elaboration.

We should find none of this particularly surprising. The niche the GOP has carved out for itself is very narrow, indeed. They can’t side with scientists. They can’t side with Democrats. They can’t propose legislation that will cost their constituents money. They literally cannot do anything at all. So, instead, they make ridiculous propositions they have no intention of pursuing.

And criticize, of course. They do that exceedingly well… as long as you don’t think too hard about what they say.

 

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