Spooked after learning that a teenager visiting Miami Beach from Nigeria was tested over the weekend for the Ebola virus, county commissioners on Tuesday asked Mayor Carlos Gimenez to identify locations to quarantine potential patients in the future.
Never mind that the results came back negative and that, according to public-health administrators, the patient did not even present symptoms to require the test. Or that Miami International Airport already has a quarantine station, operated by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Local hospitals also have quarantine rooms.
The board still adopted emergency legislation requesting sites at MIA, PortMiami and elsewhere around the county “where Ebola symptomatic individuals could be isolated and quarantined pending medical intervention.” Commissioners also want a report from the mayor within 30 days on other measures the government could take to combat the possible spread of the deadly disease.
Separately, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat, asked Secretary of State John Kerry to consider a temporary suspension of travel visas issued to countries hardest-hit by Ebola.
Politicians took no such actions a month ago when a patient at the county-owned Jackson Memorial Hospital also tested negative for the virus. Since then, a man from Liberia tested positive for Ebola in Dallas, prompting the quarantine of several other people who came in direct contact with him.
The second possible Miami patient drew far more political attention, raising questions about what the proper role of elected officials is in matters of public health.