'We Don't Have a Lot of Margin for Error': Obama Announces 'Additional Passenger Screening' After Senators' Requests
Customs and Border Patrol will "review all travelers entering the United States for general overt signs of illnesses" and isolate those "identified with a possible communicable disease or identified from information that is received from the CDC."
Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn (R-Texas) wrote to CBP Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske on Friday to ask if the agency had plans in place to implement advanced screening procedures.
In the letter, Cornyn asked for "additional data, including country of origin, on how many individuals have received enhanced screening upon arrival to the United States since the Ebola virus outbreak began in West Africa."
Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.), the ranking member on the Senate health committee, also Friday called on Obama to "immediately begin screening at all U.S. airports any person who is traveling to the U.S. from one of the countries with an Ebola epidemic."
"This screening in the U.S. would be in addition to the screening they receive when they leave the countries that are the source of the outbreak," Alexander stressed, adding that the president "should immediately designate a single cabinet member to coordinate the response among the agencies involved and the other countries of the world who should be more involved.”
“We must take the deadly, dangerous threat of Ebola in West Africa as seriously as we take the ISIS threat in the Middle East. The spread of this disease requires a more urgent response from the United States and other countries.”
Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) wrote Obama today to also ask that he name an Ebola czar to coordinate all agency efforts.
"As members of the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, we want to make sure resources are allocated most efficiently across the agencies responsible for the Ebola response in West Africa and disease control activities at home," they wrote.
Moran and Wolf had more questions for the commander in chief, including, "What specific duties, missions, and responsibilities will be assigned to our nation’s servicemembers partaking in DoD’s role in daily operations in West Africa?"
They encouraged Obama to bring in someone with experience to manage the crisis, "well-respected former Administration officials with a background in public health and international diplomacy to assist with this serious challenge, such as former Secretary of State Colin Powell, former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and former Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt."
After the Ebola meeting, Obama scooted off to a DNC event at a Turkish tapas restaurant in Washington.
"We're spending a lot of time working on Ebola. And although I know there are understandable fears here in the United States, we're very confident that the chances of an outbreak here are exceedingly low," he said.
"On the other hand, this speaks to the broader need for us to build a public health infrastructure around the world so that when epidemics like this happen, that we're able to catch it at the source quickly, save lives, but also make sure that the American people are safe. And so once again, Americans are showing leadership in addressing this crisis."