Ever since Kent Brantly, the first Ebola patient, was flown in from Africa over a month ago, the country has slowly been waking up to the possibility of a real health epidemic. Because it is the headquarters of the Centers for Disease Control, Georgia is on the front lines, with yet another Ebola patient arriving at Emory for treatment Wednesday.
The growing concern about the ability of the American health system to treat what could become an epidemic has caused politicians to start to offer their suggestions for containing the crisis. First in line was Democrat David Scott, who represents the 13th district on the west side of Atlanta. Quoted in the Marietta Daily Journal Wednesday, Scott told the Smyrna Rotary Club that he supported a ban on travel from Africa.
I have a difference on this with my president. I can’t for the life of me understand why we don’t have a ban on flights to that part of Africa. You’ve got an example already of someone who came into this country with the virus. How many more? That has to stop. We don’t need to ban the flights permanently, just until we get our arms around the situation.
We have to ban those flights. There’s no question about it. We’ve got to protect the American people from this disease. It’s not here — or it was not here — and the president said a week or two ago ‘We don’t know of any case’ where it would be here. And now it’s here, and it’s already killed somebody.
This morning, First District Rep. Jack Kingston called for an Ebola Czar to manage the situation in a Washington Examiner Op-Ed.
The alphabet soup of agencies responding to this crisis has a tangled and confusing reporting structure. Africom reports to the Department of Defense while CDC, NIH, and BARDA report to the Department of Health and Human Services. Meanwhile, USAID is under the jurisdiction of the State Department and CPB reports to Department of Homeland Security.
While America’s response has many of the right ingredients, it lacks a singular leader to outline strategy, marshal resources, and track the effectiveness of the response. Then there’s the rest of the world.
Responses from other Georgia congressmen continue below the fold.
6th District Rep. Tom Price, who is a medical doctor, said that the disease should be fought at its source in Africa.
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the subsequent cases of infection here in the United States have raised a tremendous amount of concern, fear and confusion. There’s no doubt that the challenge before us is enormous and the threat to our nation’s public health is real. There’s also no denying that the United States is better prepared than any other nation to address this challenge here at home and provide medical infrastructure, knowledge and aid to the people of West Africa. That being said, the events of the past few weeks – with the arrival of an infected individual into the United States and then the subsequent infection of now two health care personnel – make it clear that current procedures and execution of our prevention and response systems have been inadequate.
Every agency involved, as well as health care personnel across the country, must put in place procedures to determine where a breakdown in protection and prevention could occur and do what is necessary to mitigate future failures. Part of that process must include updates to our efforts to prevent someone infected with Ebola from entering the United States in the first place. Screening procedures of visa holders traveling here from countries where this outbreak has occurred need to be equal to the challenge before us. Denying entry to the U.S., or requiring a period of quarantine prior to entry, to anyone from an affected country ought to be on the table.
Ultimately, the best way to slow and eventually halt the spread of Ebola is to build up the capacity in West Africa to defeat this outbreak at its source. The United States is playing the leading role in an international effort to solve this crisis. As we apply our expertise and capabilities abroad, we need to ensure we are asking the tough questions and making the necessary corrections here at home to protect the American people.
12th District Rep. John Barrow sent a letter to the Secretary of State, the Director of the CDC and the FAA Administrator calling for flight restrictions and a 21 day voluntary quarantine for those traveling to the U.S. from countries with significant Ebola outbreaks:
Dear Secretary Kerry, Director Frieden, and Administrator Huerta:
It seems we are reaching a tipping point in our efforts to combat the Ebola virus around the world and to keep it from becoming a full blown catastrophe in the United States. The American people have grave concerns about the U.S. government’s handling of this crisis so far. The coming days are pivotal in our efforts to regain control of this epidemic and restore confidence in the American people. Please consider these safeguards that I think will help do both.
First, we must stop direct flights from countries with out-of-control Ebola infection rates. This is basic, with no real unmanageable consequences, and just makes too much common sense not to do. We can easily make safe, secure, alternative accommodations for aid workers and those who have justifiable emergencies. But I fear that, for someone infected with Ebola, it is too great a temptation to hop on a direct flight to the United States in hopes of being treated in an American hospital. We can’t risk it.
Second, I think we should implement a 21 day delay on travel visas to the US for any person traveling from, or who has traveled through, an Ebola-affected country. Such a policy would take relatively little infrastructure and manpower on our part. The prospective traveler would simply need to notify us of their intent to enter the U.S. and be prepared to document that they’ve spent the previous 21 days in an Ebola-free country before being allowed to enter the U.S. For the majority of travelers, this would prove to be only a limited inconvenience, and it would certainly be an effective deterrent to the spread of this disease in our country.
Lastly, I suggest we exert more formal control over the travel of those who have been exposed to Ebola, in the United States, and are at high risk for infection. It’s been reported that someone who had been identified as having had a high risk of exposure was allowed to get on a plane and travel within the United States. That’s inexcusable. If high risk individuals cannot be counted on to prevent unintended exposure to innocent parties, then we owe it to the potential victims of such exposure to make sure that cannot happen.
I’m confident these travel restrictions will help the efforts to combat Ebola, and that they send a strong message that we’re serious about the health and safety of the American people. I hope you’ll take these suggestions seriously.
14th District Rep. Tom Graves is also in favor of a travel ban, and issued this statement:
My prayers today are with the two Dallas nurses who put themselves at risk in order to help a patient with Ebola. They represent the best of America’s dedicated health care professionals.
Now, Americans are asking how Ebola could spread in our country, why a nurse with symptoms was given permission to board a commercial flight, and why the strictest, safest protocols were not followed. It is disturbing to consider that it only took one Liberian, without symptoms when he arrived in the United States, to start this dangerous chain of events. That fact raises questions about the effectiveness of entry screening and should cause the president to seriously consider banning travel to the United States by non-U.S. citizens from the affected Western African countries. I would support that action, in addition to other aggressive measures, if it means keeping Americans safe from Ebola.
From Third District Congressman Lynn Westmoreland:
Like many Americans, my concerns over the CDC’s handling of the Ebola outbreak in America are growing daily,” stated Westmoreland. “To this point, the response has been one step behind containing and eliminating the virus. When President Obama and Director Frieden made the decision to send troops to West Africa to risk their lives abroad, they should have shown equal force in combating the disease at home. The Ebola “swat team” the president called for last night should have been deployed weeks ago when the first patient came back to America.
The breach of protocol and lack of guidance provided for health care workers in Texas has caused the American people to lose faith in the government’s ability to contain the disease. While the CDC has many dedicated workers, they do not have a perfect record when it comes to keeping protocol and focusing on their underlying mission. The CDC has made multiple mistakes in the last year, such as the handling of Bird Flu (H5N1 influenza virus) and Anthrax and this situation has been no different. Their protocol needs to be seriously reexamined for any possible weaknesses, and they need to tighten up their training procedures so that not a single American healthcare worker or person is at risk.
I join many of my colleagues in requesting a travel ban that includes screening of visas from countries where the outbreak is occurring, specifically West Africa. What we are doing now is not enough and we need stronger leadership from CDC Director Frieden and President Obama to protect our citizens. Due to our nation’s advanced medicine and expertise to handle this appropriately, the threat of widespread outbreak in the US still remains low; however we must act quickly and carefully to destroy that threat completely.
Added by Charlie:
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, today called for restricted travel from Ebola-stricken nations in West Africa to the U.S. The senators issued the following statements:
“Given the recent spread of Ebola in the United States, I share the deep concerns expressed by many Georgians about the risk this deadly virus poses to our public health,” said Chambliss. “To contain this disease and help prevent any additional cases in our country, I support implementing travel restrictions from Ebola-affected nations in West Africa to the United States. I believe exceptions can and should be made for essential personnel to carry out our mission of stopping the spread of Ebola at the source. Our nation continues to face a growing array of threats from around the world and must remain vigilant; I urge the administration to put in place a proactive and carefully thought out plan to protect the American people from the spread of this virus.”
“As a member of the Senate health committee, I believe that, given the transmission of Ebola in Dallas that originated from a passenger flying from West Africa, we need to temporarily restrict nonessential travel to the United States from Ebola-affected countries,” said Isakson. “Additionally, I urge the president to take charge of coordinating and increasing the U.S. response to the growing threat of the Ebola virus to the American people. I take this situation very seriously and believe it is an urgent priority for the United States to contain this outbreak at its source, as well as to ensure that any additional cases that arise in the United States are quickly isolated.”