Yesterday the CDC published a report entitled Surveillance and Preparedness for Ebola Virus Disease — New York City, 2014. The release of this report has been making its rounds across the blogosphere over the last 24 hours. The supposition seems to be that New York City is somehow special and that the arrival of Ebola is somewhat inevitable in The Big Apple. Here is an excerpt from the report:
New York City (NYC) is a frequent port of entry for travelers from West Africa, a home to communities of West African immigrants who travel back to their home countries, and a home to health care workers who travel to West Africa to treat Ebola patients. Ongoing transmission of Ebolavirus in West Africa could result in an infected person arriving in NYC. The announcement on September 30 of an Ebola case diagnosed in Texas in a person who had recently arrived from an Ebola-affected country further reinforced the need in NYC for local preparedness for Ebola.
To ensure that NYC is prepared to manage Ebola cases and prevent disease transmission, the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), in close coordination with local hospitals and clinicians, nongovernmental organizations and community groups, and city, state, and federal agencies, established systems around Ebola surveillance and management of suspected cases and contacts, and built upon existing general protocols for early recognition and management of persons with a viral hemorrhagic fever. Objectives included rapidly identifying Ebola patients in health care settings, implementing infection control precautions, and transporting ill persons to hospitals via emergency medical services, including persons arriving on international flights into John F. Kennedy International Airport. Enhanced planning began immediately after a CDC alert about Ebola on July 28, 2014. Reporting criteria and infection control guidance were developed in collaboration with local hospitals and sent to hospitals and clinicians via an electronic health alert system on August 11. Information also was shared on three citywide conference calls and in oral presentations to target audiences (1). DOHMH developed Ebola-specific data collection forms and triage protocols and trained staff to handle calls.
Of course common sense would indicate that New York is one of the likely ports for an Ebola patient to enter America. At one point we thought that patient zero had landed there. There have been a couple of scares in NYC as you may recall.
However, I find it absolutely fascinating that the CDC confirms that preparation began shortly after July 28, 2014 because…
On August 1st New York City had a massive and totally unannounced “airborne bioweapons” drill. They categorically denied, at the time, that the drill had anything to do with Ebola. But this CDC report and the timeline would make one wonder if this was more than just fortuitous timing.
Shepard Ambellas reported in August:
Friday [August 1st], officials throughout the city conducted the largest unannounced bioterror drill in U.S. history.
Supposedly, the drill was for airborne bioweapons such as Anthrax, however, one must question if the true nature of the drill was based on the recent Ebola outbreak which has already killed over 750 people in West Africa and prompted door-to-door sweeps.
The drill cost about $1.4 million.
The Gothamist reported:
During the drill, officials, volunteers and press waited for the truck of antibiotics to arrive. The DOH’s communications explained that it was delayed by traffic—while the truck was being escorted by police cruisers, it wasn’t running red lights as it would in an actual anthrax situation.
Fun fact: The antibiotics are from the CDC’s Strategic National Stockpile. The CDC claims, “The SNS has stockpiled enough medicine to protect people in several large cities at the same time.”
Dr. Oxiris Barbot, the first deputy health commissioner, told reporters, “The purpose of this is to see how effective we are at mobilizing staff from 13 different agencies, getting the antibiotics transported… other coordinating issues that could slow us down.”
It seems like a lot of trouble and wasted funds for a spur of the moment, unannounced drill that was reportedly to protect the city from Anthrax. The timing seems a bit odd since the CDC has admitted that it sent an alert to New York just a few days prior.
Do I have an overactive imagination?
That may or may not be true.
What I believe is that, regardless of how it came to be, we are constantly being lied to and that this threat is much more serious than we have been led to believe. From my perspective it would seem that some city leaders in New York have known all along that Ebola was and is quite serious and they felt the need to prepare.
Maybe they were trying to minimize panic by hiding their motivations. You can try to justify a lie anyway you would like. That doesn’t change the fact that it is a lie.
I’m not buying that this was an Anthrax drill.
I’m not buying anything that they are selling.
So should New Yorkers get ready for the worst? Of course they should, but that goes for people all over the country. We are all at risk. Maybe the risk is a little higher in New York City but none of us should assume we are safe. We haven’t exactly been told the truth about anything else up to this point.