A Senate panel held a hearing with officials from the National Institutes of Health this week, and nearly two hours into the discussion, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) noticed something interesting: no one had mentioned Ebola at all.
It was just last fall when much of the political world was experiencing a election-season breakdown over the virus, and now, even in discussions with NIH officials, it’s relegated to an afterthought.
Sam Stein’s report added that it’s a good thing the Washington Democrat broached the subject, because “the news that the NIH had to share was decidedly positive.”
“From a public health standpoint, the number of cases in West Africa has diminished dramatically,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “There hasn’t been a case in Liberia in almost 40 days, which means that the country of Liberia very likely will be declared Ebola-free very soon.” […]Researchers running trials on vaccines, Fauci said, were seeing promising results: The vaccine was proving safe, and the outcomes were similar to those of earlier monkey trials. But because cases of Ebola were on the decline, he added, “it might be difficult to actually prove on an incident basis that the vaccine does actually work.”
Fauci acknowledged there are challenges elsewhere, most notably in Guinea, but it’s easy to feel encouraged about the progress and the efficacy of the U.S. response.
It was just last October when Republican pundits, including Peggy Noonan, said that if the Obama administration failed to impose a travel ban, she was “certain” that Ebola cases in the United States would grow. That same week, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) announced plans to introduce legislation imposing such a policy, banning U.S. visas for nationals from Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.
President Obama ignored Rubio and Noonan, choosing instead to listen to actual experts. In retrospect, that was apparently a good idea.
Of course, other Republicans were just as wrong, if not more so in trying to make Ebola a campaign issue. As we discussed a while back, when GOP candidates, officials, and pundits turned Ebola into a partisan prop last fall, they weren’t just trying to exploit public anxiety for public gain; Republicans were actually trying to undermine Americans’ confidence in the government itself.
Iowa’s Joni Ernst (R) suggested President Obama didn’t care whether or not Americans got Ebola. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) argued that public-health officials were not to be trusted. Jeb Bush blasted the president’s handling of the threat as “incompetent.”
It’s a shame sometimes that accountability is so easily discarded, even when dealing with major crises.