Playing Games with Public health Our Take

| 12 Aug 2015 | 03:01

Dr. Craig Spencer, the man who forever will be known as New York’s only Ebola victim, sat down with New York magazine earlier this summer to talk about his recovery. In the interview, he also described the city’s chaotic, and dysfunctional, initial response to the outbreak, a narrative that ran counter to boasts by local health officials about how they had successfully contained the disease.

We fear the same story of dysfunction will be written in the wake of our current outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease.

A dozen people have died and 100 more have contracted the disease, all of them in the Bronx. The death toll continues to creep up, despite city officials’ nearly daily claims that the outbreak has been contained.

Earlier this week, bringing their grade-school brawl to a new low, our mayor and governor held competing news conferences on the issue, laying out conflicting information, in the hopes of painting their nemesis as inept in a time of crisis.

Of course, they both came off as losers. But this is a dangerous game. Public health, like public security, is one area where the credibility of our elected officials is critical. Lives can be lost if warnings or advice is ignored.

But that is where we’re headed, and the blame lies entirely with New York officials who have, in essence, made themselves untrustworthy. And in the next health crisis, if not in this one, a lot more of us may pay the price.