It finally happened. Last Thursday, it was confirmed that Ebola has officially spread into New York City. The patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, is being treated in Manhattan’s Bellevue Hospital Center after he returned from Guinea and treated Ebola victims with Doctors Without Borders.
The governors of New York and New Jersey have reacted by enacting a new policy, requiring anyone who has come into contact with the virus to be quarantined before they enter U.S. airports. The people of New York, unfortunately, have reacted by blaming the good doctor for bringing this mess into their beloved city.
With a population of over eight million and millions of tourists coming in and out every day, it was only a matter of time before Ebola came to NYC. Nonetheless, panicked city dwellers are freaking out as though there is supposed to be an invisible but impenetrable barrier surrounding the five boroughs that magically keeps things like Ebola out.
Some want Spencer out of the city. Some blame him for even returning at all. They feel betrayed that the rat-infested subway lines they rely on so much were not only carrying tons of New Yorkers, but also harboring an Ebola victim. They are infuriated over the idea that the polluted air they breathe was being shared by an Ebola victim the whole time.
Get your heads out of your behinds, New Yorkers.
First of all, according to the World Health Organization’s website, Ebola is spread from one human to another through direct contact with the body fluids of those that are infected. I am talking about blood, semen and other bodily liquids. So unless you have gone around licking subway poles lately, or have somehow found a way to drink Spencer’s spit, you can calm down. Just keep up your personal hygiene, be careful of what or who you touch, and you should be fine.
Second of all, stop blaming Spencer for making the Ebola problem your problem. As the many hopeful pre-med students of Stony Brook will say, the reason why someone becomes a doctor is so that they can help people. Here is Spencer, actually doing that. He was just trying to be a decent human being and actually do something about the problem, instead of sitting around and blaming people for not acting faster, which is a lot more than I can say for the rest of us.
Like the Director of the National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said, “The best way to stop this epidemic is to help the people in West Africa. We do that by sending people over there, not just from the USA, but from other places. We need to treat returning people with respect.”
This speaks to the new quarantine policy as well. Obviously, yes, we need to keep the virus from spreading, but many medical experts, government officials (including President Barack Obama) and healthcare workers have spoken against this policy.
Not only is it incredibly rude, but it sends the wrong message to the public when doctors and nurses are being forced into isolation and it discourages people from helping on the Ebola front. Instead of treating the returning healthcare workers as disease mongers, we should be treating them like the heroes they are. They are more aware than we are of the risks they face when they go to Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria and many other countries that need their help. Yet they still go, because this is what healthcare workers live for. They know that the good they can do over there outweighs any potential risks. They do not need this kind of bitterness welcoming them back.
As a fellow and native New Yorker, I cannot help but feel disappointed in the way our city has reacted to this turn of events. I get it. Ebola is dangerous, it is contagious and it is here. By all means, be scared and be careful. But please, do not be the cold-hearted, selfish stereotype that the world believes us to be.
This is a city of liberals and radicals who argue for change and tolerance, a safe haven where any weirdo can go to and claim they belong. So why are you turning on Spencer, who is just one of us? If this truly is the greatest city in the world, as so many New Yorkers believe, then why does it not show in times like these?