A second nurse who treated Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola. I’ve been being stupid again and reading comments on various news forums and Facebook and the amount of panic, fear-mongering and outright stupidity is staggering. And the finger pointing in all the wrong directions is mind-boggling. I did find this meme which cracked me up:
So, who’s fault is it? Because as much as some people detest the man for their, of course, (snicker) non-racist beliefs of birtherism, socialism and any other -ism they throw at him and hope it sticks, this is not President Obama’s fault. And it wouldn’t matter if there were a Republican president right now, this is not one man’s fault. Whose fault it is cannot be pinned to one or even a couple of people. Believe me, there is lots and lots of fault to go around and there are a whole lot of people in this country who see part of the problem in the mirror every day but prefer to blame the President.
Let’s start with the state of Texas. How could a state be at fault? Well in case you hadn’t heard, Texas politics are deeply red (conservative). There are a whole lot of progressives in Texas working to change that and change will come, but not soon enough in this case. Texas is a “right to work” state. A conservative euphemism for union-busting, pro-corporation policies. What it means in the real world is take this job as is, or leave it. Speak out about problems or issues or low pay or hazardous working conditions and we can fire you with impunity. And you have absolutely no recourse to appeal. It breeds environments where all kinds of problems can occur. Remember that huge explosion at the fertilizer plant in West, TX that leveled half the town? Do you think the people that worked there didn’t know there were problems? Of course they did. But you’ve got to feed your family and keep a roof over their heads, so better to keep your mouth shut and keep your job. Hospitals are no different. This kind of policy breeds workplace cultures that punish whistleblowers and allows the companies behind them to make ever more profits. And hospitals in this country are for-profit ventures. More on that later. It is now coming to light that the nurses didn’t have the protective gear they needed, in fact they were told by hospital ADMINISTRATORS that face masks were unnecessary. Hospital ADMINISTRATORS, you know, the folks who balance the budget (I mean make sure there’s a tidy profit) told nurses they didn’t need protective masks to keep them safe from Ebola. Not to mention that there apparently was a shortage of needed gear in the first place. I mean, why keep a surplus of gear that would keep your staff safe in an emergency situation because, profits! [ETA: Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital stated in a press conference this morning that all CDC protocols were followed and that all protective gear was available for nurse’s use.] And let’s discuss the fact that Mr. Duncan was sent home with antibiotics the first time he went to the hospital. The hospital has been hemming and hawing, at first blaming Mr. Duncan for not telling them he was from Africa, then admitting they knew he was from Africa but blaming a nurse for not telling the doctor, then admitting a doctor knew but their computer system messed up etc. The fact is he was an uninsured black man in a deeply conservative southern state. If you haven’t figured out what I mean by that, I’ll point it out for you. He was black. Racism is still rampant in this country despite what the very people who are the most racist want you to believe. You know, the ones who start a racist rant by stating, “I’m not racist, but…” And he was uninsured, meaning it was unlikely the for-profit hospital would get paid. So despite the fact that they all knew where he was from and that his symptoms were consistent with Ebola they sent him home. He just wasn’t good for the hospital’s bottom line. And now we’re learning that even after he came back the second time and in spite of a head nurse’s increasing outrage, hospital ADMINISTRATORS didn’t want to put him in isolation. Bad for the bottom line, because that stuff’s expensive. It is the very policies that this state endorses and embraces that allow that kind of outrageous practices in a hospital. And if you vote for the politicians who endorse these kinds of policies, you are part of the problem of Ebola spreading in Texas.
Now would be a good time to talk about the healthcare system in this country. You know, the one conservatives crow about being the best in world. Well, maybe it is for the wealthy and a bit better for those with insurance. But even with insurance, it is really easy to be bankrupted by a bad accident or illness. The Affordable Care Act also known as Obamacare (or according to conservatives the single most horrific law ever enacted in the history of everything) has made insurance affordable and available to more people, keeps insurers from discriminating based on pre-existing conditions, keeps insurers from dropping people from the insurance when they get sick, and prevents insurers from putting caps on the amount of insurance a sick person can get. All of those are good starts in the right direction. The other big part of the ACA is the expansion of Medicaid to a lot more people. All the states have to do is accept money from the federal government to expand Medicaid in their states. Of course Texas being red (conservative) threw a hissy fit about taking more money from that (insert insult of choice here) in the White House and turned down that money leaving many thousands of people here still without insurance that otherwise would have qualified. Would Medicaid have covered Mr. Duncan since he was a visitor from another country? No, but if hospitals here were getting Medicaid for the uninsured they by law have to at least make an attempt at treating in the ER it would cut down on their costs and make it less likely they’d turn away a foreign national without insurance. At least it should. But there’s that bottom line to consider, so maybe not. And here’s the thing, because our hospital system in this country is for-profit, not for doing the morally right thing of treating any person with any illness, even people with insurance are screwed on a regular basis by doctors and hospitals who exploit the system to line their own pockets. So when you have a system that puts profits ahead of patient care, that put administrators in charge of treatments and mix that with an uninsured, minority patient it’s a recipe for disaster. And if you are one of those people who believe if all those low-income people would just quit being so lazy and work harder at those minimum wage jobs they could all just magically get better paying jobs that don’t exist and get their own insurance then you are part of the problem of Ebola spreading in Texas.
Now, lets move on to the CDC (Center for Disease Control). The CDC has been a presence in the media since Mr. Duncan was diagnosed and have been doing their job of attempting to keep the populace calm. And that is an important job. Have you ever seen a herd of animals stampeding? Have you ever seen a large group of panicking humans? About the same. Of course, most people in the comments I’ve been reading think the CDC is just lying to them about how hard it is to spread Ebola and everyone is at risk!!!! But seriously people. Mr. Duncan’s family members, who spent days with him while he was sick with symptoms and who then spent more days in the contaminated apartment before they were moved have not gotten sick and are past the most likely timeframe for getting sick. They still have a few days of quarantine left, but each day that passes they have less likely a chance of getting it. The two people who have contracted it had daily extensive contact with Mr. Duncan when he was the most ill and contagious. They clearly did not have the resources or training to be safe and that is partially on the CDC and partially on the hospital, but to believe the CDC is lying about how easy it is to get Ebola is to not understand the science. Oh wait, conservatives and science don’t mix. The CDC has also sent personnel to help the hospital and city of Dallas with their response. Since the diagnoses of the 2nd nurse to have contracted Ebola, they have admitted they should have sent a much larger presence to Texas to help. Well, how in the world can we trust the CDC when they would screw up so badly? Well, lets talk funding. Remember the sequester? You know, when conservatives held the government hostage, shut it down unless it got draconian austerity measures passed? And President Obama relented thinking he could manage to work with Republicans and then sequestration went into effect because of course Republicans weren’t going to work with the (insert insult of choice here) in the White House. Well guess which budget got huge cuts? You guessed it, the CDC (along with everything else except the military). And we’re not just talking about the resources to send personnel to Texas. The CDC goes to other countries to help them with outbreaks that occur. To keep them from spreading. So that they don’t spread to this country. The best way to keep diseases like Ebola from spreading to this country is to keep them from spreading in other countries. But if the CDC doesn’t have the resources to help do that, it is inevitable that something will start to spiral out of control and it will hit here. Which is what has happened with Ebola. And let’s not forget everyone’s favorite armchair solution: ban all flights into this country from Africa. IT WILL NOT WORK FOLKS. You ban all flights from certain African countries, people who need to get here will just fly into another country and then fly here. The only way to would be to stop ALL flights into this country. Do you think the US economy not to mention world economy could handle that? The other thing I’ve heard from the panicked masses is to close the borders of the countries who have people infected by Ebola. OK. Whose going to close the borders of 3 or 4 large countries? Our military? If that were even possible, which it is not, that would put thousands and thousands of American servicemen in contact with Ebola. If President Obama ordered American troops into 4 countries to forcibly try and control their borders, then I might think he’s as awful as conservatives believe. And it wouldn’t work. There would be no way to completely stop people from coming or going across borders as we here in border states understand. You’d think all the panicked conservatives would get it too since they constantly whinge about our porous borders. The best way to stop the current outbreak is to make sure there are enough resources and personnel both in the countries with outbreaks and here at home and that will mean spending money. Congress should immediately reinstate previous budgets and add as much more as is needed. But they won’t. And they’ll blame Obama and so will all the other conservatives out there who refuse to understand how the real world works.
So, OH MY GOD, EBOLA!! WHAT SHOULD WE DO!! WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!! WE HAVE TO BLAME SOMEBODY!!! Well, I’m glad you asked. Here’s what to do. First, calm the f*ck down. If you want to worry about something, worry about how 88 people A DAY die from gun violence in this country. I will repeat that. 88 people A DAY die from gun violence in this country. That is nearly 31,000 people a year. And the conservative wing nuts are just fine with that because “my right to own as many and every kind of gun there is with no restrictions trumps your right to be alive.” You want to be furious and up in arms about something? How about that? Next, how about the fact…no wait. Never mind. If you truly care about what is going on in the world and wish to stay informed you either already educate yourself or are capable of looking up and confirming everything I’ve stated in this piece. If you want to stay true to your ideology, your fear, your hatred of those who are different or “other”, if you want to believe that you are better than anyone else for whatever reason, then nothing I say here will change your mind. You won’t get that opinion is not equal to fact, that ideology is not equal to science, that your worldview is not the end all and be all. You’ll just stay fearful and angry and continue to vote for and support policies that seek to exclude and denigrate and keep downtrodden those “others”. The good news is that progressive ideals have ALWAYS won in the end. People who believe in the sanctity of ALL life, not just those of unborn fetuses, people who believe resources are there for ALL people no matter their circumstances, people who believe war-mongering is not the way to a peaceful world, people who believe science can advance our civilization and make life better for EVERYONE, those people and their ideals will prevail. So I will continue to stay optimistic that despite mistakes being made, despite a lack of resources, despite the greed and opportunism of so many in this country, this outbreak (if it can really be called that at this point) will be contained as will the real one in Africa. Lessons will be learned that will help doctors and scientists deal with the next one. And life will go on.