Tags: Barack Obama | Ebola Outbreak | Ebola | Dallas | nurses | airlines | CDC

Obama: CDC 'SWAT Teams' to Aid in Ebola Fight

By    |   Thursday, 16 October 2014 08:55 AM

President Barack Obama promised Wednesday that his administration plans to respond "in a much more aggressive way" to Ebola outbreaks, including having the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention send in a "SWAT team" when new cases are diagnosed.

"We are taking this very seriously at the highest levels of government," Obama said Wednesday, after it was announced that a second nurse from Dallas, who treated Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan, had tested positive for the deadly disease, reports Politico.

The president, encouraging the public not to panic over the new cases of Ebola in the United States, reminded Americans that the disease is only contracted through direct contact with the bodily fluids of an infected person.

"Here's what we know about Ebola: It's not like the flu. It's not airborne," he said. He pointed out that last month, he visited Atlanta and hugged, kissed, and shook hands with nurses who had been working at Emory University Hospital, where three other Ebola patients have been treated, with two having been released after they recovered.

On Wednesday, the second Dallas nurse to be diagnosed, Amber Joy Vinson, 29, was sent to Emory, reports NBC News, where she will be treated in a special isolation unit. The first nurse diagnosed, Nina Pham, is being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where she and Vinson were part of the team caring for Duncan.

Meanwhile, Obama canceled planned campaign stops in New Jersey and Connecticut on Wednesday to hold a cabinet-level meeting on the growing Ebola crisis.

The White House is conceding that there were shortcomings in the response to an Ebola patient's care in Texas that ended up with two healthcare workers testing positive for the disease.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest noted that Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden had declared that even one healthcare worker being exposed was unacceptable.

"So that is an indication that there were shortcomings," Earnest said. He also said, "It's not clear what protocols were in place and how those protocols were implemented."

Obama was joined on Wednesday by Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and National Security Adviser Susan Rice.

Lisa Monaco, a homeland security and counterterrorism adviser who has been coordinating the White House's response, was also in the room, with Frieden participating via videoconference.

Earnest also acknowledged Wednesday that there will likely be more Americans diagnosed with Ebola, but would not call the cases an outbreak, reports Politico.

He further resisted suggestions being made by Republicans that Obama appoint an "Ebola czar" to coordinate the government's response to the disease.

"What you are seeing from the federal government . . . is the kind of tenacious response that reflects evolving circumstances," Earnest said. "There's plenty of reason for people to feel confident about what we're doing."

Meanwhile, back in Dallas, County Commissioners are planning a special meeting on Thursday, during which they'll declare Dallas as being under a disaster designation, citing "the potential for widespread or severe damage, injury, loss or threat of life resulting from the Ebola virus," reports NBC affiliate KXAS in Dallas-Fort Worth.

Declaring a disaster will allow officials to impose travel restrictions for the workers who provided Duncan with care. It is believed 77 of the hospital workers were in contact with Duncan, the NBC affiliate reports.

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told the affiliate that Dallas County Medical Director Dr. Christopher Perkins plans to sign a control order to block people being monitored for symptoms from using public transportation. Vinson had returned with a slight fever Monday night, just before she was diagnosed, by plane from a weekend trip to Ohio to visit her family and fiancé.

Frieden said Wednesday that Vinson never should have been allowed to fly commercially after her exposure to Ebola.

But another CDC official, spokesman David Daigle, said Vinson spoke with a CDC official responsible for monitoring her health before she boarded the flight, and that the agency had cleared Vinson to fly.

Daigle said Vinson reported her temperature was below 100.4 degrees and that she had no symptoms.

The CDC is tracking down the 123 people who flew on Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 from Cleveland to Dallas on Monday. According to The Associated Press, the jet has been taken out of service and was flown without passengers to Denver on Wednesday, where it is to go through a fourth cleaning and its seat covering, carpets, and air filters will be replaced.

In Dallas, Jenkins said the control order will give the county legal authority to restrict the movement of those being monitored for the potentially deadly virus.

"If an order is in place I expect it to be followed and we'd use the law to enforce it, but that won't be necessary," Jenkins told the NBC affiliate. "These are heroic health care professionals who just need some guidance on what they can and can't do in a very difficult time in their life."

He said he will work with state officials outside of Dallas County on the plan. On Wednesday, Texas Republican Sen. John Cornyn, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Texas Health Commissioner Dr. David Lakey and Jenkins met to discuss the growing crisis.

"I don't know if we've ever had anything like this happen before," Cornyn said. "One of the points the mayor and the judge said is the CDC is a world-class expert in terms of offering advice, but what you need is somebody who can operationally make things happen. And maybe we need a public health special operations force."

On the federal level, health officials will be testifying before a congressional committee on Thursday, The Associated Press reports.

Ebola is affecting Dallas-area schools as well. One district closed three of its schools after discovering two students were on the same plane as Vinson.

Obama on Wednesday also called European leaders to discuss international action on Ebola, including a call for more money and people "to bend the curve of the epidemic."

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President Obama said his administration plans to respond "in a much more aggressive way" to Ebola, including having the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention send in a "SWAT team" when new cases are diagnosed.
Ebola, Dallas, nurses, airlines, CDC
Thursday, 16 October 2014 08:55 AM
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