Nancy Snyderman Breaks Ebola Quarantine, Says 'Sorry'

Twitter/Dr. Nancy Snyderman
You'd think that there would be no one left in the country who hadn't heard about Ebola and wasn't aware of how dangerous the disease could be. But you'd be wrong, because apparently NBC's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Nancy Snyderman, didn't get the memo, even while she was supposed to be voluntarily quarantined for potential exposure. Snyderman was seen waiting in a car outside a New Jersey restaurant, according to Planet Princeton.

The New Jersey Department of Health then made the 21-day quarantine mandatory and Snyderman issued a statement of apology, according to Mediaite, to heal her public image. But the apology may have sounded less than sincere according to experts.

Snyderman and an NBC crew had agreed to a voluntary quarantine on their return last week from West Africa, according to the New York Post. A cameraman working with them had contacted the deadly disease, whose health has since improved, reported the New York Daily News.

Although casual contraction of Ebola is difficult, isolation of potentially exposed people has become a standard step as the virus has been introduced into the US. Not only does it help prevent any possible spread, but it reduces the potential for public panic. All the crew members were supposed to stay home and have their temperature taken twice daily.

Even though Snyderman and the crew were reportedly in good health and showing no signs of Ebola, the Planet Princeton report that she was seen wearing sunglasses, with her hair pulled back, in her Mercedes while parked outside a restaurant was surprising. A man allegedly left the car, went into the restaurant to pick up an order, and returned. A second man sat in the car's back seat.

Even though transmission requires exposure to body fluids, the mechanisms may not be as graphic as many assume. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Ebola can be passed by a sneeze or cough if "saliva or mucus come into contact with that person's eyes, nose or mouth."

As Mediaite noted, Snyderman issued a statement of apology:

While under voluntary quarantine guidelines, which called for our team to avoid public contact for 21 days, members of our group violated those guidelines and understand that our quarantine is now mandatory until 21 days have passed. We remain healthy and our temperatures are normal.

As a health professional I know that we have no symptoms and pose no risk to the public, but I am deeply sorry for the concerns this episode caused. We are thrilled that Ashoka [the cameraman] is getting better and our thoughts continue to be with the thousands affected by Ebola whose stories we all went to cover.

However, the apology may have fallen short. According to experts, proper and effective apologies need to be stated in an unambiguous and unmitigated way. By saying that the crew posed no risk to the public, Snyderman may have tried to show that she had not put people in danger, but she also seemed to indicate that her judgment was more important than that of other healthcare and public health professionals.

"It's not an apology," said Marjorie Ingall, co-editor of the apology monitoring site, to AOL Jobs. "There's a complete lack of remorse shown in that statement on every level. 'Sorry for the concerns' is not the same as 'Sorry I did something.' It puts the onus on the other person. And the arrogance to say as a health professional, 'I know we have no symptoms,' when you were told the gestation period could be 21 days. To say you pose no risk to the public, you don't know that."

The reaction in comments on a Planet Princeton story on the apology were scathing, including such remarks as, "We may have infected your city with a really horrible disease, but we don't think so. Trust us. We are experts? So you caught us, sorry," and "She did not apologize for lying or for putting people potentially at risk. She just apologized for freaking people out. As we would say to our kids, 'That's not good enough - apologize for real now.' She's like a two-year-old."
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