White House Says Texas Ebola Screw-Ups Were Actually a Good Thing

Josh Earnest was asked a whole mess of questions about Ebola, and responded in an equally messy manner.
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Josh Earnest was asked a whole mess of questions about Ebola, and responded in an equally messy manner.
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As factually scary as a U.S. outbreak of the Ebola virus isn't, the media and the government continue to compete for the Least Helpful at Quelling Panic Award. Case in point: the White House's assertion that the multiple screw-ups in the Texas Ebola case were actually just an accidental awareness campaign.

At his last White House daily briefing, Press Secretary Josh Earnest was asked a whole mess of questions about Ebola, including more talk about a travel ban (which they're not "currently considering") and screening measures (none of which would have stopped Thomas Eric Duncan from entering the U.S., since he was not symptomatic when he flew), and questions about the botched handling of Duncan's case in Dallas. NBC News' Chris Jansing asked Earnest how things are going in the effort to quell fears that Duncan's case have stirred. Earnest replied that while the deadly disease has a "scary name," people can take comfort in our "track record" implementing safeguards:

"It’s also important that people understand what the risk actually is. It’s also important that medical professionals and that our national security professionals, our law enforcement professionals actually do what’s required in terms of implementing the guidelines. And so far, the track record, while not perfect, is pretty good."

There are two ways to look at this. The first is that our track record is perfect; we've gotten one case of Ebola in the U.S., and we've screwed up that one case. The other, which goes to Earnest's point about knowing the risks, is that our track record is perfect, because of the six cases that have been treated in the United States so far, everyone's still alive. Duncan is in stable but critical condition at this point, and is undergoing an experimental treatment.

Then, Jansing asked if the mistakes in Dallas have made people skeptical about the ability of local hospitals and the CDC to handle cases like this.

Well, I mean, the thing I will say, Chris, is that given the amount of attention that this particular case has received, I feel confident that more medical professionals across the country are keenly aware of what the protocols are and how important it is to follow those protocols.

So we also remain confident that our response to this incident, while -- I should say it this way: That the local response to this incident, while not perfect, has since followed the protocol and has limited the threat or the risk to people in north Texas.

Yes, if only people had been paying any attention at all to Ebola before that case, or shown endless loops of b-roll featuring those exact protocols being used on the previous four Ebola patients treated here. I guses we can only hope for a mutation that features a prominent rash that spells out "Hi! I Have Ebola! That's The Virus, Not The Electronic Bowling Game!"

Earnest even went on to describe how very simple those protocols are, noting that they "don’t require any sort of heroic steps," and yet the one time we've needed to take them, we screwed it up.

The good news is that now that while people are at risk, medicine is coincidentally advancing at a lightning pace. After 40 years, there's a vaccine in clinical trials, and since we've been treating patients in the U.S. during this outbreak, Ebola has become all kinds of survivable. Additionally, a change in the mode of transmission is apparently unlikely. It would just be nice to know that if such a change were to occur, someone would notice it.

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