The CDC’s Master Plan for Ebola

If the CDC actually wanted the Ebola crisis to panic the markets, have a chilling effect on business, and make consumers even more concerned about the government’s ability to handle a crisis than it already is, here’s how it would do it:

Waste decades since its first harrowing encounter with the deadly disease in the ‘80s as described in Richard Preston’s bestseller “The Hot Zone.” Do an outstanding job chronicling 34 outbreaks over 38 years on its website, while making no progress on a vaccine or cure because, let’s be honest, there’s no market for it.

In the midst of the largest Ebola epidemic in history, fly two doctors infected with the virus to the U.S. to be treated here while reassuring the public that fears of an outbreak are unwarranted and they will keep this deadly disease isolated because, after all, this isn’t Africa – it’s America – and we know exactly how to handle this sort of thing.

State emphatically that health care professionals have been trained and “U.S. hospitals can safely manage a patient with Ebola following our recommended infection-control procedures.” Whether that was true or not, never consider that it might serve as an invitation for infected people to hop on a plane and come here. 

When Eric Duncan does just that and flies from Liberia to Dallas, goes to a hospital that is supposedly trained on Ebola, is sent home with antibiotics, returns to the hospital and is finally diagnosed with the deadly disease, get CDC director Tom Frieden to boldly declare, “I have no doubt that we will contain this” and “We will stop it in its tracks.”

After Duncan dies, advise a nurse who treated him that it’s OK to get on a plane and fly to Cleveland to plan her wedding. When she and another nurse who cared for Duncan are diagnosed with Ebola, again put Frieden on TV to defend the CDC’s obviously flawed training and protocol and blame the nurses for breaching it. Say it’s “absolutely” safe to treat Ebola patients with exposed head and feet and wearing just one pair of gloves.

Less than a week later, issue a completely revised and overly detailed protocol for treating patients infected with Ebola that contradicts much of what the director previously said, includes vastly more training and supervision, pages and pages of procedures for putting on and removing protective equipment and clothing, and “no skin exposure.”

After nearly four decades of dealing with the deadly disease, finally bring the CDC’s Ebola protocol up to par with procedures that veterinary professionals have been using for years to treat dogs infected with canine Parvovirus, according to a veterinary technician from one of the Bay Area’s top veterinary clinics. And that’s just to keep it from infecting other dogs that might not have been vaccinated. The virus has no effect on humans.

Lastly, add an Ebola Czar reporting to President Obama. Obviously, that will fix everything.

It’s been less than three months since we learned that two health-care workers infected with Ebola would be transported to the U.S. under care of the CDC. During that time the Dow’s gains for the year were wiped out and the S&P 500’s gains roughly halved. Of course, the CDC had no intention of that happening. But it happened, nevertheless.

Sure, the crisis in the Middle East probably contributed to the drop. And I know the markets rallied big-time yesterday, but those wild swings are not signs of a healthy market. They’re signs of chaos.

And then just last night, a doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the virus. In line with the chaos, Thursday’s market rally reversed course near the close, as news of the doctor being quarantined broke. U.S. futures pointed sharply lower on Friday as the news settled in that the virus was now in America’s most populous city.

And Ebola is just the latest in a long series of crises, scandals, politicizing, cronyism and chronic dishonesty by political leaders in recent years. Frankly, I can’t imagine the federal government doing more damage to America’s business health if it tried.

Like deadly viruses, these events spread chaos, fear and uncertainty that keep our corporations and small businesses from thriving. With all these obstacles to overcome – one after another – how can our economy ever get healthy? How can America thrive? It can’t.