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Saturday, December 3, 2016

By the time you read this, it’s likely another politician has flashed his Doctors Without Degrees membership card and decreed another mandate that does nothing but fuel misinformation about Ebola.

Nothing is more contagious than unwarranted fear.

I was going to cite breaking news from The New York Times, but Andy Borowitz’s satire for The New Yorker offers a stellar illustration of what has unfolded in the days since three health care workers — only one of them returning from West Africa — were diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, population 316.1 million.

Dateline Trenton, N.J.: “Saying that he was ‘sick and tired of having my medical credentials questioned,’ Governor Chris Christie (R-NJ) had himself sworn in as a medical doctor on Sunday night.”

Borowitz, by the way, went to Shaker Heights High School, which is where my daughter went and my niece Marcia is currently enrolled. Marcia’s field hockey team just won the district finals and is headed for the state finals.

None of this, of course, has anything to do with the science of Ebola. See? I, too, could be governor of New Jersey and order a nurse with no symptoms to be held hostage in a tent without a shower or flushable toilet.

About that: Nurse Kaci Hickox, after returning from Sierra Leone, had no symptoms of Ebola, but she did have the nerve to volunteer with Doctors Without Borders and to fly her philanthropic self in to Newark Liberty International Airport, where her liberty was immediately suspended. Ignoring the evolving CDC and White House directives and the evidence that Hickox wasn’t sick, Christie channeled his inner blowhard — sigh, again — and ordered her to be quarantined in a tent until she really, really showed no symptoms of the disease.

To the delight of rational minds, Hickox chose not to suffer in silence. She told her story to The Dallas Morning News and CNN and shared photos, too, of her new home. (Dear newsroom art directors who always hound me: You’re right. Sometimes there’s nothing like a visual to drive that baby home.)

Five days later, Christie relented and allowed Hickox to return to her home state of Maine. Not a reversal, he insisted, no, no, no. As The New York Times reported, Christie compared Hickox’s plight to the common inconveniences of air travel.

“Any of us have seen people who are traveling and they’ve been stopped,” he said. “Whether they’re late for a plane or whatever they’re doing, they get upset and angry.”

Excellent analogy.

I know that every time I’ve been inconvenienced at the airport in recent weeks, I immediately think, “Here we go again. Just like being held against my will in an Ebola tent.”

Delayed flight? Ebola.

No spicy tomato juice on the flight? Ebola.

Husband fails to text pronto after I land to see whether I arrived safely? Ebola. Definitely.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined Christie — there was a picture — to trumpet his own Ebola guidelines. He instituted a mandatory quarantine, too. Three days later, New York City officials charged with implementing it said they still had no idea how they were supposed to do that.

A New England Journal of Medicine editorial blasted New Jersey, New York and other states for a mandatory quarantine policy that “is not scientifically based, is unfair and unwise, and will impede essential efforts to stop these awful outbreaks of Ebola disease at their source, which is the only satisfactory goal. The governors’ action is like driving a carpet tack with a sledgehammer: It gets the job done but overall is more destructive than beneficial.”

Keep in mind that both Cuomo and Christie fancy themselves to be president someday. Of the country.

Speaking of the president, the real one, he went and hugged Nina Pham, the Dallas nurse who was declared free of the Ebola virus. He did this in the Oval Office, no less.

So brave, showing the entire country he understands the science of Ebola — and right before the midterm elections. Someone’s bound to complain about that.

Meanwhile, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has declared that symptom-free health care workers returning from West Africa must be quarantined for 21 days. He also said they won’t be paid for their lost wages.

“I don’t think it’s right to ask the taxpayers of this state to pay for individuals who have perhaps put themselves in this category,” he said about health care workers volunteering to save lives somewhere other than in America. “We are incurring the expense of all the monitoring” — his bright idea — “and all the quarantining that may be associated with it.”

Makes me misty-eyed for the days of Missouri’s U.S. Senate candidate Todd Akin and his theory about the magic sperm zappers.

OK, not really, but surely you can see why he’s come to mind.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and an essayist for Parade magazine. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz ([email protected]) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

Photo: New Jersey governor Chris Christie greets supporters while campaigning with Florida Gov. Rick Scott during a campaign stop in Ormond Beach, FL, Monday, Oct. 27, 2014. (Joe Burbank/Orlando Sentinel/MCT)

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Correction: Only one of the health care workers to be diagnosed with Ebola had been in West Africa, not all three as this column originally stated.