Sunday, October 26, 2014

Nurse, having volunteered in Africa, rails her unnecessary quarantine in New Jersey, but the public comments show little empathy

The web is bouncing with an existential debate on the extended quarantine order by the governors of New York and New Jersey, to apply to all health care workers.  University of Texas at Arlington graduate nurse Kaci Hickox was caught in the net as she explained in her op-ed in the Dallas Morning News today here. She says she is allowed to have absolutely nothing, although then one wonders how she got the LTE out. The quarantines, applying to travelers who land at JFK, Newark and now O’Hare, apply to any one with contact overseas with an infected person, which by definition includes all health workers in at least the three hard-hit West African nations.

The tone of comments on the web is rather startling.  Many visitors, maybe two-thirds of them, do not appreciate the idea that nurses and doctors who work with Doctors Without Borders are taking personal risks already to help some of the world’s neediest people.  The “take care of your own” mentality seems to stop at bridging beyond your own family and country with these people (as Charles Murray would say, bonding capital is there but bridge capital is not), with a majority of people who comment, at least in Texas.   One far right wing comment in the Dallas Morning News  (replying to the Hickox letter) called Obama (with regard to leadership of the military and the CDC) a “gay muslim”, almost an oxymoron. Maybe the comment has been removed by now, but it was rather stunning.   A number of comments suggest that Americans have no business going to Africa, coming back, and putting the "rest of us" in danger.  No wonder it is hard to recruit volunteers, and the epidemic gets out of control in Africa even more quickly, endangering us all through possible eventual mutation.  I haven’t even checked Breitbart for this issue yet. 

The measures by the three governors seem politically motivated, with fall elections approaching.
It seems mandatory that when organizations send people overseas, that the people be paid for their additional time in isolation upon returning, and that support of various kinds be paid for.  Maybe that could be set up in advance, but it would still reduce the number of volunteers. Most charities don’t have the money for this now.  Maybe the governors will fund the three weeks’ pay and amenities for this?  Are people supposed to do “gofundme” for people caught in situations created by politicians?  I could say I don’t get involved in other people’s lives that way, and resent the ideas – but I can see it coming with the asylum issue anyway. 

The Dallas Morning News reports that the friends of deceased Charles Duncan need a new place to live and new possessions.  If I were a member of that church, would I be expected to get involved in something like this?  Again, imagine the moral analogy to the political asylum issue (for gays from Russia and some African countries).
Let’s home that Dr. Spencer turns the corner on his own course with Ebola and starts improving quickly, as did several other patients.  He is reported to be approaching the most critical time in fighting the virus right now at Bellevue in NYC.

Update:  Oct. 28

Gov. Christie, under public pressure, un-quarantined Hickox, who now returns home to Maine, but her boyfriend, a nursing student, now has complications, according to this local story.

Update: Oct. 29 

Ryan Boyko is in quarantine in Connecticut, having returned from West Africa but not having had any contact with Ebola patients.  He discusses his situation with Anderson Cooper on AC360 here

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