Real enough for you? On the heels of news that the second Dallas nurse to be infected with Ebola traveled on an airplane the day before she got sick, President Obama has canceled his trip to New Jersey today in order to hold a cabinet meeting on Ebola.
It has been a big news day for Ebola, as officials at at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital announced, this morning, that a second health care worker who treated the late Thomas Eric Duncan has tested positive for Ebola. That worker has since been identified as 26 year-old nurse Amber Vinson, and according to a press release from Frontier Airlines, she flew on a flight from Cleveland to Dallas with 132 other people on October 13, the day before she reported symptoms:
At approximately 1:00 a.m. MT on October 15, Frontier was notified by the CDC that a customer traveling on Frontier Airlines flight 1143 Cleveland to Dallas/Fort Worth on Oct. 13 has since tested positive for the Ebola virus. The flight landed in Dallas/Fort Worth at 8:16 p.m. local and remained overnight at the airport having completed its flying for the day at which point the aircraft received a thorough cleaning per our normal procedures which is consistent with CDC guidelines prior to returning to service the next day. It was also cleaned again in Cleveland last night. Previously the customer had traveled from Dallas Fort Worth to Cleveland on Frontier flight 1142 on October 10.
Customer exhibited no symptoms or sign of illness while on flight 1143, according to the crew. Frontier responded immediately upon notification from the CDC by removing the aircraft from service and is working closely with CDC to identify and contact customers who may traveled on flight 1143.
The Centers For Disease Control is in the process of contacting those passengers. At 12:46 pm, the White House announced a change to the President's schedule:
The President’s travel today to New Jersey and Connecticut has been postponed.
Later this afternoon, the President will convene a meeting with cabinet agencies coordinating the government’s Ebola response. There will be a pool spray at the bottom of this meeting in the Cabinet Room.
Press Secretary Josh Earnest's daily briefing, originally scheduled for 12:30pm, has also been postponed until 2:15 pm.
That should be an interesting briefing, because despite constant reassurances that they've got this, the best thing our Ebola response seems to have going for it is Ebola. Despite the media-heightened fear and hyperbole, this disease seems determined not to spread in the U.S., no matter how hard we try to help it. They turned away the first guy to come down with it in the U.S., and now, there's reporting to suggest that disease protocols were ad hoc, at best, during Thomas Eric Duncan's treatment. So far, two of the 77 workers who had contact with Duncan have gotten Ebola, and at least one of them, while under Ebola self-monitoring, flew to Cleveland.
Luckily, Ebola is not contagious until the patient is symptomatic, so the 132 passengers on that plane are probably safe, and the heightened awareness of Ebola, combined with the disease's difficult mode of transmission, make it very unlikely that a wider outbreak of the virus (in its current form) will occur in the U.S.
On the other hand, this outbreak is completely uncharted territory, and President Obama doesn't cancel trips for anything. Anyone who thinks he'd start to play optics now doesn't understand how this works; canceling the trip in this case only makes sense if the concern is real, because it delivers that exact message to a public that's on the verge of panic. As tough as it is to spread Ebola in a developed country, this string of screwups has created a legitimate crisis of confidence.