A nurse and doctor demonstrate to health care professionals how to properly put on protective medical gear when working with someone infected with the ebola virus on Oct. 21, 2014 in New York, N.Y. (Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)
Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty

Number of U.S. Ebola patients returns to zero

It was just a couple of weeks ago that the Ebola virus was one of the nation’s top political issues – that sentence still seems bizarre on a conceptual level – with Republicans eagerly exploiting public anxiety to advance their political ambitions.
But no matter how great the fears, it’s hard not to feel encouraged by the recent results. Suzy Khimm reported last night:
New York City doctor Craig Spencer has been declared Ebola-free and will be released from a New York City hospital on Tuesday morning, leaving U.S. hospitals free of patients with the deadly disease.
New York City’s health department said in a statement that Spencer was free of the Ebola virus and “poses no public health risk,” warranting his discharge.
NBC News’ report added, “The U.S. is now free of known Ebola cases.” That’s not to say the threat is over or that the number of domestic cases will remain at zero indefinitely, but Americans can nevertheless feel good about where things stand.
A grand total of two people were infected on U.S. soil and they’re now both healthy and out of the hospital. Dr. Spencer was the only remaining patient – he contracted the virus while treating patients in West Africa – and he’s reportedly being discharged from the hospital today.
All of this was accomplished without a congressionally imposed travel ban, new border security measures with Mexico, or a series of tents in New Jersey.
Indeed, it’s amazing to pause for a moment to contrast the partisan hyperventilating we heard very recently about Ebola becoming “Obama’s Katrina” and an example of governmental “incompetence.” Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), true to form, started pushing conspiracy theories. Rep Peter King (R-N.Y.) suggested the public should no longer trust public-health officials.
It was just over a week ago that Sen.-elect Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) went so far as to argue that President Obama “hasn’t demonstrated” that he even cares whether or not Americans get Ebola.
Some of the ugliest fear-mongering about the virus came from right-wing Senate candidates – Ernst, North Carolina’s Thom Tillis, Arkansas’ Tom Cotton, et al – who actually won their races.
Maybe it’s time for a little accountability?
Paul Waldman recently published a piece that continues to ring true.
Imagine that a year ago, I told you that a few months hence, west Africa would see the largest Ebola outbreak in history. Then I explained that despite regular travel in and out of the affected countries by health professionals and ordinary people, there would be a grand total of two – not two hundred, or two thousand, but two – Americans who contracted the disease here, and both of them would be nurses who had treated a dying patient who had contracted the disease in Liberia. And I told you that both of them would be treated, and would survive and be healthy. If I had told you that a year ago, would you have said, “Wow, that sounds like a gigantic federal government failure”?
Of course not. You’d say that sounds like a public health triumph.
And now that the total number of U.S. Ebola patients stands at zero, the phrase “public health triumph” seems even more apt.
I don’t seriously expect Republicans to collectively say, “Sorry we tried to scare the bejusus out of Americans without cause,” but some acknowledgement of the Obama administration’s effective handling of the crisis and the right’s misguided hysteria would be nice.