WASHINGTON – In his first remarks on the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, President Obama assured the American people the “chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.”
The American people do not seem reassured, judging by the results of a Pew poll that found more Americans are paying close attention to the Ebola outbreak than any other issue.
Perhaps that is because, when he made those remarks on Sept. 16., the president also called it “unlikely” that someone with Ebola would “reach our shores,” and that the U.S was taking precautions so that “someone with the virus doesn’t get on a plane for the United States.”
As the editorial board of the Los Angeles Times pointed out, “It was only a matter of weeks before Obama’s words proved inaccurate.”
On Wednesday, Thomas Eric Duncan became the first person to die of Ebola in the U.S., having arrived in Dallas from Liberia on Sept. 20.
The Times also opined, “Had the public realized what those precautions consisted of — merely checking travelers’ temperatures … and asking them whether they had been in close contact with Ebola patients — many Americans probably would have disagreed with the president.”
The public seems fully focused on the Ebola threat now.
According to a Pew Poll released this week, Americans are paying the most attention to these stories:
- 36 percent: Ebola outbreak
- 31 percent: U.S. airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria
- 21 percent: Secret Service problems/director resignations
- 15 percent: 2014 midterm elections
- 7 percent: Hong Kong protests
Americans are following the Ebola outbreak more closely than the airstrikes against ISIS, even though the terrorist army is advancing in both Syria and Iraq despite the U.S. attacks.
The Ebola issue also eclipses the Secret Service scandal, despite revelations this week the White House may have engaged in a cover-up.
And, more than twice as many Americans are focused on Ebola than the midterm elections in a few weeks that could swing control of the Senate back to Republicans.
Perhaps illustrating Americans’ concern with Ebola was what happened when a man on an airplane who was coughing and wheezing joked he had Ebola.
CNN reported passengers reacted with “astonishment, anger and fear.”
The man who reportedly said “I have Ebola. You’re all screwed,” was escorted off U.S. Airways Flight 845 by four men in blue hazmat suits after the plane landed in the Dominican Republic.
The passenger complained he had been kidding, but he was taken seriously by a flight attendant who called him “an idiot.”
One passenger said, “That’s not something you joke about.”
Another said, “Don’t touch this guy,” as passengers covered their faces and moved away from him.
Concern is running high at airports all across America.
The Centers for Disease Control, a county fire department and a health district all responded to an Ebola scare at McCarran airport in Las Vegas on Friday.
A Las Vegas station reported an airplane was held in quarantine on the tarmac for more than an hour after arriving from New York due to fears about a vomiting passenger who had recently traveled to Africa.
Passengers were able to de-plane after Delta Airlines finally affirmed it was not a “communicable disease” event.
Also on Friday, Hazmat crews descended upon a plane in Birmingham, Alabama, after the United flight arrived from Chicago with a vomiting passenger.
That person was traveling from Jordan, not Africa, but fears were sufficient enough to detain all 40 passengers until the risk of Ebola had been eliminated.
On Thursday, cabin-cleaning crews at New York’s LaGuardia airport went on a 24-hour strike, complaining they were not properly trained or equipped to treat planes from Ebola stricken areas.
And, perhaps in a sign of things to come, an Ebola scare struck a hospital in North Carolina on Thursday after a man who had recently traveled to Africa merely showed up with a fever.
The Appalachian Regional Healthcare System in Boone implemented special Ebola protocols until it was determined there was not a threat to the community.