Our hearts go out to the health care workers who have contracted the Ebola virus here in the United States, as well as those who have been impacted by it around the globe. We pray for their speedy recovery, and we pray for those who are helping to treat and care for these individuals, including our medical experts and military personnel who are in West Africa to help stem this deadly disease.
Concerns about the possibility of an outbreak of this sort prompted the House to provide more funding for the CDC than requested, and the tragic developments seen in recent weeks demonstrate that decision was a prudent one.
In a September 16 speech in Atlanta, President Obama said the ‘chances of an Ebola outbreak here in the United States are extremely low.’ Since that time, several Americans have been diagnosed with the virus and untold more potentially exposed to it. Today we learned that one individual who has contracted the virus flew to Ohio through the Cleveland airport in the last few days. A temporary ban on travel to the United States from countries afflicted with the virus is something that the president should absolutely consider along with any other appropriate actions as doubts about the security of our air travel systems grow.
It is also imperative we ensure that federal, state and local agencies, along with our public health infrastructure, are prepared, remain vigilant, and follow proper protocols to identify the virus and take appropriate measures for those who have been exposed to it.
Numerous committees – including the House Armed Services Committee and the Committees on Appropriations, Homeland Security, Energy & Commerce, Foreign Affairs, and Transportation & Infrastructure – are actively assessing the administration’s response, and hearings have already begun. The Homeland Security Committee held a hearing in Dallas to examine the federal, state, and local response thus far. Tomorrow, the Energy & Commerce Committee will hear from the CDC and NIH to look into their response to the crisis. These oversight efforts will continue, and the House stands ready to act if it becomes clear legislation is needed to ensure the threat is countered aggressively and effectively.
The administration must be able to assure Americans that we will stop the spread here at home. We will continue to press the administration for better information about what steps will be taken to protect the American people, including our troops, from this deadly virus. And we will work with the administration on appropriate policy options that will help stop the spread of this horrific disease both here in the United States and around the globe.