The Prisoner and the Dilemma: We’d like to quarantine care workers who return from caring for Ebola patients in West Africa — we’re not 100% sure that symptomless people aren’t contagious (“unlikely”), and symptoms seem to come on relatively quickly in any case. Voluntary quarantining has proven incompletely effective. At the same time, we don’t want to discourage volunteer health care workers from traveling to West Africa, where the main fight against the disease is being waged. They’re not exactly encouraged to make the trip if they know they’ll have to spend 21 days in a tent with a portable toilet on their return.
What to do? Protect the public here or incentivize workers to go there? This is a false choice! What’s needed is a quarantine so luxurious that health care workers will look forward to their 21 day quarantine, or at least not dread it. What if the federal government took over an isolated resort, say on the Gulf Coast. Stock it with finest foods and wines in the land, and the best films and recreation and wireless Internet access and volunteer musical acts — a French widow in every room, as a friend of mine used to say, equivalent to a very expensive vacation, available for free to any returning volunteer? The only catch is they couldn’t leave for 21 days. (They could bring their spouses and partners, if they wanted –but then the spouses couldn’t leave either.)
It might be a little like the resort town in The Prisoner. Maybe not something busy doctors would want to sacrifice three weeks for. But it’s better than a tent in New Jersey — and probably better than being trapped in your own home. And it might quickly acquire its own lore and culture, so if you weren’t part of the network of those who did time there, you were missing out.
P.S.: People thought I was joking when I suggested this on Twitter the other day. I wasn’t.
P.P.S.: Sounds expensive. If so, it would be worth it. But I’m not at all sure that outfitting and maintaining this resort wouldn’t be cheaper than assigning government “monitors… to each quarantined family or individual … dedicated solely to help them get meals, stay in contact with loved ones” etc., in each quarantinee’s home town (the de Blasio solution).