As the country’s focus has pivoted from Ebola to the midterm election, immigration and Iran, the elusive Ebola czar surfaced to say we haven’t seen the last case of the dreaded virus in the U.S.
Last month, White House press secretary Josh Earnest said the administration hadn’t ruled out letting Ron Klain show his face to the media.
Earnest stressed that being the response coordinator was a behind-the-scenes job, “and that the need for him to play that coordinating role would limit his ability to make a large number of public appearances.”
Today, Klain appeared on MSNBC to stress “we’re gonna see occasional additional cases of Ebola in our country.”
“But today’s release of Dr. Spencer is a milestone,” the Ebola czar said of the New York doctor who went bowling the night before being admitted to the hospital. “It’s a milestone, obviously, in his treatment. It’s a milestone in showing that our strategy of identifying, isolating, and treating Ebola patients can be successful. It’s a milestone because it’s the first time a hospital other than one of our three nationally specialized centers has successfully treated an Ebola patient. And so, we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Dr. Spencer, who’s a hero, and to the team at Bellevue, the leadership in New York City for delivering this success today.”
Klain said “we’ve seen an improvement in all aspects of our response” since the death of Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas.
“We’ve increased our ability to identify risky cases, identify potential cases of Ebola to isolate them. And then we’ve improved our readiness in the health care system to treat those patients and to get them the recovery,” he said.
The czar said the states have the power to follow or reject federal quarantine guidelines, but made clear he disagreed with the quarantine of nurse Kaci Hickox.
“We are concerned that where you have quarantines that aren’t based on medical science, it does tend to discourage health care workers from going and fighting this disease in West Africa. That is how ultimately the American people are going to be protected, by heroes like Craig Spencer getting on planes, going over to West Africa, fighting the disease,” Klain said.
“We need to welcome them back as heroes. We need to have appropriate safeguards like the CDC guidelines to make sure they don’t infect other people. That’s what worked in Dr. Spencer’s case, and that’s really what we’d like to see across the country.”
In the case of the Pentagon quarantining soldiers returning from the hot zone, Klain called it “just differences between military and civilian life.”
“What the commanders have decided is an operational basis, is when they come home, they’ll be kept together instead of scattering them off to their units and having to go take their temperature and monitor them there, they’re going to be kept on base. That’s the most effective way operationally to monitor them, to apply the same protocols we’re applying to civilians,” he said.
Klain said the lame-duck Senate is “promptly getting to work” on a $6 billion Ebola funding request from the administration.
The Senate Appropriates Committee holds a hearing on that request tomorrow.
“We expect there to be rigorous questioning about it,” Klain said.
“I’m here to fight this fight and do this crisis,” the czar added. “Once I’m finished, I’m going back to private life. This is — this is more than enough for me.”