Dude, Please

I want to zoom in on something Chris Christie said yesterday. Because it’s such an obvious lie about such an important topic that it deserves attention. As you know, over the weekend Govs. Christie and Cuomo put in place a tough, mandatory quarantine policy which would require all medical workers who’d treated Ebola patients in West Africa to undergo a mandatory 21 day quarantine. (21 days is considered the longest possible incubation period for the disease.)

The whole point of the policy was that it didn’t matter if the clinicians were symptomatic when they returned to the US. They were supposed to be isolated so they couldn’t infect other people if and when they did become symptomatic, like Dr. Spencer did in New York City.

In Florida yesterday, Christie was asked why he’d shifted his policy in releasing Nurse Kaci Hickox and allowing her to return to Maine. His answers were simply false on two counts. First he said that she’d been symptomatic for Ebola and was running a fever. Neither appears to be true.

According to her undisputed account, she was briefly shown to have a fever using a forehead strip thermometer which showed a slight fever, apparently because she was upset and stressed. Whatever the reason, a subsequent oral thermometer reading showed no fever. That almost certainly means she never had a fever. Nor has there been any suggestion that she had any symptoms of Ebola. So Christie’s claim that she was symptomatic for Ebola, but then saw her symptoms go away, is just false.

When asked if he’d reversed his decision, Christie denied any change in policy and said she would only have been forced to remain in isolation, “if she continued to be ill. She hadn’t had any symptoms for 24 hours and she tested negative for Ebola. The reason she was put in the hospital in the first place was because she was running a high fever and she was symptomatic … The minute she was no longer symptomatic she was released.” (emphasis added)

Again, based on everything we know about Hickox’s care, this is false. She was never symptomatic for Ebola and she never had a fever with the exception of one reading which was apparently contradicted a short time later by a more accurate test.

Nor was there any need for her to be symptomatic under the policy that the two Governors announced. The explicitly and expressed goal of the policy was not to hold people who were symptomatic but to hold everyone who’d treated Ebola patients in West Africa in isolation for 21 days in case they became symptomatic. Again, these are Cuomo’s and Christie’s own words.

So Christie is not only lying about the specifics of Hickox case he’s also claiming the policy says something different from what he said it was when he announced it.

As I’ve noted here, the fact that Holiday Inn Express epidemiologists like Christie and Cuomo are coming up with their own homebrew Ebola containment plans without any consultation with qualified epidemiologists is bad news in itself. Lying about what happened after the fact just shows the sort of sloppy disregard for science and focus on politics that will get people killed or at least make it harder to stamp out the disease.

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