Are you ready for this? An elementary school teacher in the small town of Strong, Maine attended the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium — an educational conference held at the Hilton Anatole hotel in Dallas, Texas. Dallas is the city in which Texas Health Presbyterian is located. Texas Health Presbyterian is the hospital in which Thomas Eric Duncan was treated for (and died from) the Ebola virus. The Hilton Anatole hotel is almost ten miles from Texas Health Presbyterian hospital.
On her return to Maine, the teacher was placed on a 21-day leave of absence. It takes between two and twenty-one days for a person infected with Ebola to exhibit symptoms.
That’s right. The administrators of Maine School Administrative District 58 have placed a teacher on paid leave for being in the same city as an Ebola patient. Why? Because a local parent, Matt Dexter, has a child who is in that teacher’s class. I don’t want to say that Matt Dexter is a complete fucking idjit.
But he is. He complained to the school board:
“[Y]ou sent (this teacher) to a potentially harmful area for exposure, and then to come back and jump into the classroom on Monday seemed a little bit reckless.”
Matt Dexter apparently believes the Ebola virus is very clever — the McGyver of viruses. He seems to think if a patient in an isolation unit coughs or sneezes, those wily Ebola viruses will find a way to escape isolation, sneak out of the hospital, travel ten miles to a nice hotel, infiltrate the hotel’s HVAC ducts, find its way to the room of a visiting teacher from Maine, infect her, then bide its time until she returns to her classroom in Maine, at which point it will leap out and assault his child. Did I mention Matt Dexter is a complete fucking idjit?
“I’m really tired of people telling everyone, on the news, starting at the national level, ‘zero risk, low risk.’ The bottom line is that there is risk. Are we more capable of handling this than Africa? Sure, but why walk around blind and jam people into hot spots we can’t control? It all comes down to personal responsibility.”
You know, maybe the reason everyone is saying there’s a low risk is because there actually is a low risk. And c’mon, ‘low risk’ is an exaggeration. The risk is infinitesimal. Consider this: we had a guy with active Ebola symptoms at large in Dallas for two days, then hospitalized in a facility completely unprepared to treat Ebola — and yet only two other people have tested positive for the virus. The four people who actually shared living quarters with Thomas Eric Duncan while he was symptomatic — the period when he was most contagious — are about to be released from quarantine; they’ve shown no sign of being infected. Why? Because Ebola, despite being incredibly infectious, just isn’t very transmissible.
And yet Matt Dexter, of Strong, Maine, is about to piss his pants in panic because his child’s teacher happened to spend a few days in the same city as an Ebola patient. But hey, he’s right — it DOES all come down to personal responsibility. Matt Dexter is personally responsible for educating himself before panicking — and he failed in that responsibility. He’s personally responsible for teaching his child the difference between rational fears and irrational fears — and he failed in that. He’s personally responsible for being a role model for his child — and guess what, he failed at that too. Matt Dexter has a personal responsibility NOT to be a complete fucking idjit. Failed.
I feel sorry for the teacher. But even more, I feel sorry for Matt Dexter’s child. All children are, at some point, embarrassed by their parents. But few children have such a legitimate reason to be embarrassed.