I don't get why "swine flu" equals worldwide pandemonium while the generic flu that kills hundreds of thousands of people every year is a non-event. But OK, the experts do, which is why I guess the Obama administration has kicked into pandemic-prevention mode, declaring a full-blown "national health emergency." But if the administration talks up the emergency, how seriously, really, is it taking the emergency?
Let's review. Scores of deaths in Mexico are attributed to "swine flu." Check. A New York City school becomes a swine flu hotspot after students return from Mexico. Check. The United Sates declares a "national health emergency" on Sunday. Check. Also on Sunday, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano notes that travel advisories have not been issued by the State Department, nor is the United States going to screen passengers on flights arriving from Mexico.
Not check. While the U.S. government went ahead and issued a travel advisory on nonessential travel to Mexico on Monday, it has still in no way restricted travel from Mexico, not even for a day or two to assess the path and scope of the outbreak. This is why at the end of Swine Flu, Week One, the first line of flu defense at the U.S.-Mexican border are American bus drivers spraying their buses with cans of Lysol.
There is something screwy going on. It started with the unfathomable official insistence from the get-go that closing the border on a pandemic emerging in Mexico was pointless even as the same officials simultaneously declared their ignorance on the nature and potential of the contagious new bug. But why curb nonessential travel into the hot zone, as the U.S. government ultimately did, without curbing nonessential travel out of the hot zone? It didn't make sense. But this is the position that became policy. "At this point, (health officials) have not recommended a border closing," President Obama said at his Wednesday press conference: "From their perspective, it would be akin to closing the barn door after the horses are out, because we already have cases here in the United States."
Well, relatively few cases here in the United States, Mr. President, with some significant number of them having come in via Mexico. If public health is the overriding concern, why guarantee more such "horses" keep coming? If, indeed.