A registered nurse demonstrates putting on personal protective equipment (PPE) during an Ebola educational session for healthcare workers in New York in 2014.
Photo by Mike Segar/Reuters

As Ebola threat becomes more serious, how prepared is Team Trump?


The World Health Organization does not declare global health emergencies often. But in light of the conditions in central Africa, that’s exactly what the WHO did yesterday.

The World Health Organization on Wednesday declared the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo a global health emergency, citing the virus’s recent spread into Goma, one of the country’s most densely populated cities.

Two million people reside in Goma, which sits just south of the epicenter of the outbreak, near the border with Rwanda.

In recent years, there have been related outbreak threats, including one around this time a year ago, but they did not prompt the WHO to make an emergency declaration.

Obviously, the hope is that international public-health officials will be able to respond to the Ebola outbreak effectively, though if conditions become even more serious, it’s going to be difficult to have confidence in the Trump administration.

In May 2018, for example, the Washington Post reported that Rear Adm. Timothy Ziemer, the top White House official responsible for leading the U.S. response in the event of a deadly pandemic, abruptly left his post.

The article added that there was no senior administration official “focused solely on global health security.” What’s more, the Post noted that Ziemer’s team had been broken up, and thanks to John Bolton’s reorganization plan, the admiral would not be replaced on the White House National Security Council.

And then, of course, there’s Donald Trump’s own record on the matter.

In late-October 2014, for example, the Republican published this missive to Twitter: “If this doctor, who so recklessly flew into New York from West Africa, has Ebola, then Obama should apologize to the American people & resign!”

Two weeks later, ignoring everything the subject-matter experts had to say on the subject, Trump added, “A single Ebola carrier infects 2 others at a minimum. STOP THE FLIGHTS! NO VISAS FROM EBOLA STRICKEN COUNTRIES!”

It was around this time that Trump also desperately tried to convince the public to blame Barack Obama for the Ebola threat.

Nearly five years later, it’s Trump who’s in the Oval Office, and it’s hardly unreasonable to wonder, should the circumstances arise, whether the Republican is capable of dealing with the threat in a responsible way.

Indeed, this president’s general m.o. is to watch Fox News and make knee-jerk declarations based on what he sees, though in this case, that’s an unsettling scenario. As Media Matters’ Matt Gertz put it yesterday, “President Trump trying to handle a global Ebola emergency while watching Fox News cover the story is one of the more chilling scenarios for the Fox-Trump feedback loop. And here we are.”