Beyond the Cusp

October 10, 2014

Ebola: To Quarantine or Not to Quarantine

There has been more than sufficient debate and even beyond to the point of hyperbole. Even mentioning quarantine and you are accused of racism because closing the border to flights originating in the areas which are stricken with the Ebola epidemic will only cause the disease to spread faster across the world and the United States. Statements such as this, which fly in the face of logical thought, are really as ridiculous as any thinking person would first believe. But we are supposed to forgo logic and ordered thought and instead believe those thoughts which we are told solely because these truths are self-evident under the correctness as dictated by political correctness and multiculturalism and the chosen deciders of that which will be considered acceptable thought. We are told that the first person who succumbed to the Ebola virus was a person of color that the treatment he received was racist otherwise he would have lived if he were not a minority. It was due to racism that he was initially sent home when he went to the hospital emergency room with severe flu-like symptoms which should have been diagnosed immediately as Ebola but the hospital sent him home after treating him and the computer misdiagnosed the patient’s high risk for contracting the Ebola virus. Later the hospital readdressed the situation “in the interest of transparency” and stated in writing that “There was no flaw in the EHR in the way the physician and nursing portions interacted related to this event.” The latest statement from the hospital released stated, “Texas Health Dallas has relocated the travel history documentation to a portion of the EHR that is part of both workflows. It also has been modified to specifically reference Ebola-endemic regions in Africa. We have made this change to increase the visibility and documentation of the travel question in order to alert all providers. We feel that this change will improve the early identification of patients who may be at risk for communicable diseases, including Ebola.” None of this addresses the debate of whether to quarantine or not, it just restates the fact that even hospitals are staffed by humans and their procedures come from humans and as such are potentially flawed. There was no racial judgmentalism in the mistaken diagnosis and treatment nor was the treatment for Ebola for Thomas Duncan was exactly the same that any person upon diagnosis for Ebola would have been and the result would likely have been the same in any similar case of Ebola.

The claims that quarantine would cause more Ebola cases which would also spread faster within the United States. The claim that the United States should have a special relationship with Liberia because Liberia was founded because America had slavery misses one crucial factor, had the United States continued to allow slavery there would have been no founding of Liberia; Liberia was founded as a result of the United States ending slavery. Why would this be turned around and made to be that Liberia was founded because America had slavery without even bothering to mention that Liberia was founded for freed slaves because the United States ended slavery is an intentional attack on the United States meant to stir up anger and feelings of the death of Mr. Duncan had a racial element. But why would there be a need to quarantine the areas of the world which are facing an epidemic from Ebola and a closure of the border to flights and passengers coming from Western Africa. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control) which had initially stated that there was almost no chance for the spread of Ebola from one person to the next because the Ebola patient is not contagious until they have symptoms and then the virus is not airborne and one needs to have contact with bodily fluids in order to become infected which makes prevention easy. They did not bother to mention that one of those bodily fluids was the spray which results from sneezes and coughs and even sweat and that the Ebola virus could potentially remain active for as long as the moisture from any of the above remained at some residual level. This means that Ebola was far more easily spread than the CDC had initially stated especially considering that sweating, coughing, sneezing and projectile vomiting are all symptoms of a person with Ebola. How long before the CDC informs the public that any surface contaminated with bodily fluids, such as spittle from a sneeze or cough, can potentially remain contagious for hours which means that taking the shopping cart offered in a friendly manner from a person who just emptied it into their car on a busy Saturday where carts are at a premium might become a life threatening event and that you should wipe down the handle area of the cart before touching it and wipe the rest down discreetly out of the friendly person’s sight, especially if they sneeze after handing you the shopping cart. No, there is no reason to initiate a policy which would ban passengers from areas of the world where the Ebola virus is still an active contagion, is there?

The question of whether to quarantine or not to quarantine is even necessary can be blamed upon the invention of aircraft and airlines, especially international direct flights from anywhere in the world to any place else in the world directly. Before airlines shortened travel times between all places on Earth to all other places on Earth within a single day the fastest manner of travel was a steamship which took as much as three weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean. This meant that Ebola carriers would more likely show signs of the contagion before the ship ever made port in New York allowing for precautions to be taken. Crossing the Pacific took even longer which would really allow sufficient time for Ebola and most other diseases to become evident long before the ship makes port. This was why the immigrants arriving in the United States until World War II landed on Ellis Island where even if a passenger was sniffling they were sent to a neighboring island for medical quarantine and treatment to determine if they should be permitted entry or be returned to Europe or wherever their originating port was. We no longer have that luxury in the modern world where the longest it takes to fly between destinations including stopovers where you do not necessarily need to deplane is under twenty-four hours. The discussion on quarantine is a new one for the United States. In Europe it is an old subject which has already been settled from past experiences and Europe will more often than not opt for quarantine without any concern for political correctness or multiculturalism as their experience where quarantine became their default position has much to do with a small plague which came from the Orient, the Bubonic Plague. From that horrendous time forward quarantine became the default in Europe and Britain but the United States has not yet to discuss quarantine nor have they been forced to before now. The only other time the United States faced an epidemic which was imported came after World War I when the returning soldiers brought the Spanish Flu with them and it spread throughout the United States like a storm, an ill wind blowing across the plains. There was no real alternative as the nations soldiers were already in transit and it was unthinkable to ban them or place them in quarantine, but some towns and even cities enforced short quarantine procedures where they basically had all stores, schools and other places where the public interacted including houses of worship to close and instructed the people to remain in their homes for as long as three or four days which did serve to stifle the spread and such places had far lower death rates than places where they continued life as normal. This is a discussion that should be argued and thought through to a complete and accepted policy for the future which will be applied in all cases of potential pandemic for the future. Any action which simply ignores the subject and dismisses any discussion simply claiming that there is no real need as the Ebola threat is over so there is no pressing reason to address the quarantine subject with any urgency. Such is simply doing what public officials too often use and get away from taking up sensitive subjects known as kicking the can down the road. The problem is nobody can predict when the next Ebola like disease will strike forcing the discussion once again on whether or not to impose quarantine on transit from the effective regions. Starting the discussion while under the gun, so to speak, is waiting too long and is the reason to force the discussion now. Hopefully the people elected to serve the public welfare and wellbeing will take the responsible path and make a reasoned decision now, and if they do not choose to perform their assigned tasks the public must force the discussion until a definitive decision is reached and a definitive policy has been defined and articulated in law, nothing less should be acceptable.

Beyond the Cusp

July 4, 2013

A Basic Question for Those Ministers in the Knesset Demanding Share the Burden

There are a number of Knesset Ministers whose parties ran on a platform that included references to a simply idea, an idea they tried to make sound like a new revelation never before addressed that would solve all the ills in Israeli society. They talked about sharing the burden by which they meant serving in the Israeli Defense Force or performing National Service. They were focusing largely on making the Haredi communities serve universally and not be given deferments for every Haredi Jew who wished to study Torah. They implied that a percentage, though the exact amount they were loath to mention, were not taking their Torah study all that seriously and were hiding behind study as a path to avoid their social obligations. Some of those making such accusations should check their own background before throwing stones inside a glass house, or whatever, as it works whether the house is glass or the glass is thrown. Some might claim that spending an enlistment working within one’s intended profession which they have a path to pursue open to them, almost reserved one might say, is not service as much as the young soldier who volunteers for combat arms and especially if they make it into any of the elite units. These claims against the Haredi were made so general that it appeared that the fact that there is a program which includes a number of Yeshiva which combines military service with Torah study was being minimized or even discounted as simply a way of claiming to do military service but not being a part of the real military. When the military is called upon to defend the people and State of Israel those Yeshiva soldiers will risk their lives and bleed the same color as any other soldier and they will follow their orders as well if not better than many. But all of this aside, there are other items which need to be discussed in open public as it will require a change of attitude from many within Israeli society if the burden is to be truly shared. When we as a people ask the Haredi to share, we too mush be willing to share.


My initial question for those calling for the Haredi in particular and others to share the burden is very simply. Have any of you ever when hiring people to work in your business life or to serve on your current Knesset staff hired, or even given an interview, to any Haredi who have applied? If you claim that none applied then I would ask why you think they did not apply? If they had applied would it have made any difference? Do you think it is fair to demand the Haredi to serve a public which in general would not give them even consideration for employment? We have all heard the complaint that the Haredi do not have the skills necessary to be employed in much of Israeli high tech industries or manufacturing and other excuses. The people making those arguments very probably know that there are a good number of Haredi who have studied and received degrees in numerous engineering disciplines and most Haredi should prove to be more than adequately trainable for any manufacturing position and very likely easier to train than some who are currently brought into the manufacturing sector. If the Israeli public as a whole desires the Haredi serve just the same as any other sector of society in the military or public service then first treat them as equals when it comes to hiring and giving the choice entry level positions for those Haredi who have taken the courses and received degrees. It is no secret that one can usually determine simply by an application whether somebody is from the Haredi community, though not always a foolproof determination. And it is not unknown that any Haredi who even gets as far as being interviewed; their chances for being actually considered are less than the chances for a non-Haredi. How about we integrate them into what we laughingly call normal society and then I would bet we would find the Haredi far more willing to serve in the IDF or give time to National Service.


On another front, the argument that the percentage of the population that is Haredi is growing faster than any other segment of Israeli society and because of this they will have to serve in the IDF in order to assure we have sufficient soldiers in the future. There is the other argument that their growth as a larger portion of our society means that the government will not be able to underwrite their Torah study as it will soon prove to be more than can be sustained by a workforce that does not include Haredi workers. Well, the solution here is not to do away with stipends for those students who truly desire to study Torah and have shown a better than average aptitude for such study, the secret is to give the Haredi equal opportunity to be employed and a part of the so-called normal workforce. What choices do the current feelings towards the Haredi offer them in Israel? If they are closed out of much of the high tech engineering sectors, ignored by the retail because they dress differently, refused hire for industry because they do not appear to be inclined for such work, then where are they to work and support themselves? Has anybody ever thought that maybe a fair number if not a majority of the Haredi would not mind joining the workforce and earn their own keep? Until such is given an opportunity we will not know and until such opportunities are a normal part of society is it fair to ask them to serve equally when they are not treated equally?


There is something that the Haredi will also need to find a way of adapting. The Haredi Rabbis are going to have to find some middle ground where they allow for coed work environments. Granted there will be a change necessitated where a certain level of modest dress may need to be expected in the workplace. There may be benefits to that beyond making the workplace more accessible for Haredi workers in that psychiatric and sociologic research has found that there has been proven a relationship between professionalism in the workplace and strict dress codes. They have found that if workers are expected to dress to a special level rather than casual attire that they tend to be more professional and productive. Granted that such findings have been buried because casual is the new dressed up but many of us know that the old studies were correct and dress more formally for work you will act and work at a heightened level. But the Haredi will need to be able to work professionally in a coed environment and such environs must be adapted so as to be more acceptable to modesty requirements. Such changes will in time prove to benefit the non-Haredi workers as well as making society more accessible and accepting to the Haredi population among us. On both sides of the society we need to remember that as Jews we are brothers and sisters in the same very extended family. Myself is probably a good example as my father is Ashkenazi and my mother is Sephardic which makes me confused when pronouncing certain Hebrew words as my Hebrew education was spent switching back and forth from the two schools. But the truth is if we go back some generations we all came from a small group of who lived in Judea and gave Greeks and then Romans more trouble than the entire area of Judea was actually worth to them. It does seem being argumentative is something we have gotten down pat. Perhaps it is time to nurture being more open, especially to each other to all of our brothers and sisters. When the world throws either stones or insults at us it is because we are Jews and they do not differentiate between Haredi and irreligious, Zionist or not Zionist, or any of the other differences we impose on ourselves, they simply see Jews and perhaps the time has come for us to see ourselves as the world see us. We will be stronger, happier and more Jewish together and we can learn from one another.


Beyond the Cusp


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