Ebola Is Also Infecting US Politics

Nurses unions threaten strikes, denouncing the safety training given to health care professionals concerning the proper use of hazmat suits, claiming that it lasted only 10 minutes, and report that their members feel “unsupported, unprepared, lied to and deserted.”

The opposition accuses the government of not taking the Ebola threat seriously. The governor of the territory in which two infections have already been manifested is traveling outside the country.

The left accuses the right of undermining the fight against the virus by blocking the designation of important leadership positions within the public health system purely for political reasons. The leader responsible for the principal hospital at the center for public health investigation blames budget cuts for the lack of a vaccine for Ebola.

Spain? No: The United States.

Although the chaos has not escalated inside the leading world power to the degree that it has in Spain, the controversy is similar.

The best example occurred today in the House of Representatives, where the Republican opposition once again demanded the closing of the airports through which 150 passengers arrive in the United States every day from Liberia, the Ivory Coast and Guinea — the three countries in which the epidemic continues.

The most recent blunder came from Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control, who declared yesterday that Amber Vinson, the second person infected with the virus, “should not have been on the plane” that traveled from Ohio to Texas, despite having a fever of only 99.5 degrees at the time, that is, two degrees less than the temperature at which the CDC gives the alarm.

The problem is that immediately after Frieden’s statement, it was made public that Vinson had spoken with the CDC about her symptoms and they had given her permission to fly.

The same Frieden who on Sep. 30 still asserted that he had “no doubt that we’ll stop this in its tracks in the U.S.” When Nina Pham became ill, he explained that “there was a breach in protocol.” Three hours later, the spokespeople for the CDC could not confirm to this newspaper what the error had been nor did they give any more information than their director; the White House, too, only mentioned a “possible breach in protocol.”*

On Sunday, when Pham’s infection was confirmed, Frieden stated that “essentially any hospital in the country can safely take care of Ebola.” Yesterday, however, Pham was sent to the National Institute of Health, in Bethesda, near Washington. That action illustrates the “de facto” recognition that the United States has only four hospitals prepared to face the virus: one in Atlanta (where Vinson is hospitalized), the National Institute of Health, another in Montana and the last in Nebraska.

Additionally, the director of the NIH, Francis Collins, declared on Friday that the country “probably would have had a vaccine in time” if the institution had not been subjected to budget cuts that left its spending capacity frozen at 23 billion euros during a decade which, adjusting for inflation, translates to a 23 percent drop in funding. On Tuesday, the senator and potential Republican presidential candidate in the 2016 elections Rand Paul answered that the lack of a vaccine has more to do with the NIH squandering its resources.

Another possible presidential candidate in 2016 is the Republican governor of Texas, Rick Perry, who had to suspend his trip to Europe yesterday, where he had traveled to “sell” Texan natural gas to countries like Poland and Ukraine that seek to replace the Russian product. And a third Republican with aspirations to the White House, Sen. Marco Rubio, called for the designation of an authority to spearhead the fight against Ebola.

That same request was made last Sunday by John McCain, a presidential candidate in 2008, when he called for the creation of a “czar,” in other words, a person with full authority to direct a specific policy. The most striking part of this request is that in 2009 McCain had declared that “Obama has more czars than the Romanovs,” referring to the dynasty that ruled Russia between 1613 and 1917. Another person who has solicited the appointment of a czar is the Republican Sen. Jack Kingston, who tried to legally restrict the power of that figure five years ago.

Of course, in terms of nominations, the Republicans are the least innocent. The United States does not have a surgeon general. The reason? Obama’s candidate, Vivek Murthy, was blocked by the Republicans because he considers fire arms (which cause 18,000 deaths a year in the United States) to be a public health problem. The National Rifle Association opposed the nomination and, since then, Murthy’s candidacy has been forgotten.

*Editor’s note: This quotation, accurately translated, could not be verified.

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