President Obama told state and local officials on a conference call today that the additional Ebola screening measures being enacted at five airports “are really just belt-and-suspenders.”
“It’s an added layer of protection on top of the procedures already in place at several airports,” he said.
Incoming travelers from Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone at JFK, O’Hare, Dulles, Newark and Hartsfield airports will be escorted by Customs and Border Patrol to a special screening area where they’ll be observed for symptoms, get their temperature taken and answer questions about Ebola exposure.
“The new measures will include additional entry screening and questions for travelers arriving from the countries affected by Ebola,” Obama said. “It will give us the ability to isolate, evaluate and monitor travelers as needed. And we’ll be able to collect any contact information that’s necessary.”
Thomas Eric Duncan, who died of Ebola in Dallas today, was asymptomatic when he flew out of Liberia and said he didn’t have contact with Ebola victims.
“Right now, a lot of people’s attention is focused on our efforts to prevent an Ebola outbreak in the United States. And I want everybody to know that from day one, this administration has made fighting Ebola a national security priority. We don’t think this is just a humanitarian issue or a public health issue, this is a national security priority. And we are working aggressively to stop the epidemic in West Africa, to stop any cases in their tracks here at home,” the president told the state and local leaders.
“…And the American people are reasonably concerned — Ebola is a terrible disease, and the fact that in an interconnected world infectious disease can be transported across borders is one of the reasons we have to take it seriously.”
Obama reminded the leaders that “America has got the best doctors in the world.”
“We know how to deal with infectious disease. I’m confident that so long as we work together, and we’re operating with an appropriate sense of urgency that we will prevent an outbreak from happening here,” he said. “And in fact, some of the work that we’re doing together and the lessons learned from this experience will further strengthen our public health systems going into the future.”
“Because there are going to be, unfortunately, other occasions where we know that there are infectious diseases out there, and in some cases the transmission may be swifter, and we’re going to have to be that much more ready.”