Increasingly politicised Ebola has become election issue

A U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) technician sets up an assay for Ebola within a containment laboratory in this undated handout picture.

A U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases (USAMRIID) technician sets up an assay for Ebola within a containment laboratory in this undated handout picture.

Ever since Ebola first “arrived” in the U.S. from West Africa a few months ago via doctor Kent Brantly, an increasingly charged debate has engulfed its domestic containment policy, and now, one week ahead of the mid-term elections, a spat between federal and state governments over quarantine protocols threatens to politicise the issue further.

The latest turn of events came after Kaci Hickox, a Sierra Leone-returned nurse placed under mandatory 21-day quarantine in New Jersey despite testing negative twice for the deadly virus and not showing any symptoms, criticised the “knee-jerk reaction by politicians” to Ebola, saying, “to quarantine someone without a better plan in place, without more forethought, is just preposterous.”

Over the weekend Ms. Hickox’s lawyer said to media that she planned to file a federal lawsuit challenging her confinement as a violation of her civil rights, especially as it raised “serious constitutional and civil liberties issues… [and] the [quarantine] policy is overly broad when applied to her.”

On Monday morning, however, the New Jersey Department of Health issued a statement this morning that Ms. Hickox has been “symptom-free for the last 24 hours,” and that it decided to discharge her after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Her release appeared to be a reversal by the administration of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who had earlier defended the quarantine order but said this week that “when she has time to reflect, she will understand” the quarantine.

Meanwhile in neighbouring New York State, Governor Andrew Cuomo revised the quarantine policy for returning health-care workers from West African nations after facing heightened pressure from the Obama administration to loosen the rules.

Explaining the protocols Mr. Cuomo said that healthcare workers who had been in contact with Ebola patients but did not show symptoms of the virus could return home but will be required to remain there while being monitored by state health officials for symptoms. They would, however, be allowed to interact with family and friends while being monitored, he added.

Meanwhile both parties appeared to be inserting the Ebola issue into their statements leading to the November 4 mid-term elections.

Republicans, who are fighting to gain control of the Senate and thus capture both houses of Congress, have focused on criticising the President Barack Obama’s response and blaming the White House for the confirmed Ebola cases on domestic soil.

Some Democrats have responded by claiming that Republican spending cuts have made the problem worse, and others accused conservatives of fear-mongering.

An poll by the Associated Press and GfK noted that Ebola was uppermost voters’ minds as Election Day approached, with 74 per cent considering it “very or extremely important, and 56 per cent expressing disapproval of the administration’s response.

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Printable version | Jun 27, 2022 11:15:20 pm |