One of the sick nurses, 29-year-old Amber Joy Vinson, had scheduled a trip to Ohio to plan her wedding. Before boarding the flight, she called the CDC and said she was running a low fever.
She asked: Can I fly?
Yes, the CDC said.
Friedman said that was a mistake. Still, no worries. "She did not vomit, she was not bleeding, so the level of risk of people around her would be extremely low," he said.
Her fellow passengers aboard Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 were contacted by CDC and told: You've been exposed to Ebola. Frontier decontaminated the plane
Vinson visited three family members in Ohio who work at Kent State University. The school's president told them to stay home and monitor their health for 21 days.
Frieden accepted responsibility. "If a health care worker gets infected," he said, "that's on us, all of us."
Ebola became a political issue. President Obama summoned his Cabinet and spoke publicly about the situation Wednesday, promising "a much more aggressive" response. He called on foreign leaders to join the U.S. fight to contain the disease in Africa.
The president's spokesman struggled to tell reporters who was singularly in charge of the government's response. After listing an alphabet soup of agency leaders, Josh Earnest said Obama's homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, coordinates the bureaucracies. He added, "I think that is a completely reasonable management structure."
(The next time Earnest is asked, "Who's in charge?" he might just say, "The president.")
House Speaker John Boehner, Obama's chief rival in governing, called for a ban on travelers from nations affected by the outbreak. Some conservatives stretched to link the Ebola situation to lax immigration laws or to question Obama's patriotism. Rush Limbaugh suggested the outbreak may be a liberal plot to avenge slavery.
Many liberals dismissed concerns about government competence and said there was no reason to question Obama's leadership. Some mocked public fears.
The Washington Post summed things up nicely:
As Wednesday ended, Americans had to be wondering when the U.S. outbreak will be contained, and whether public officials' measured language and repeated reassurances are a gloss on a desperate and sometimes improvisational battle against a disease that in West Africa has killed more than 4,000 people.
I took the time to catalogue the mistakes and cynical responses, because it's important. Not so much because we need to adjust quickly to prevent a major Ebola outbreak in the United States. While that is a concern, it still strikes me as a relatively minor one, compared with what this fiasco says about the nation's ability to deal with a truly knee-buckling crisis.
A nuclear attack. An earthquake that levels major cities. A pandemic flu. The Bush administration worked with health care systems across the country to prepare for a worst-case scenario: A flu strain evolves and quickly sickens a third of all Americans, killing nearly 2 million. Pick your poison, and ask yourself, "Could we cope?"