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McClatchy Washington Bureau - More Republicans call for travel bans because of Ebola

October 3, 2014
In The News

10/3/14 by Renee Schoff

RALEIGH — Republicans nationwide, including U.S. Senate candidate Thom Tillis of North Carolina, have been putting pressure on President Barack Obama to impose travel bans on the West African countries at the center of the Ebola crisis.

Tillis called for a ban on Thursday and chided Obama, saying, “It’s time for Washington to take action to protect the American people.”

Republican U.S. Reps. Renee Ellmers of Dunn, a nurse, George Holding of Raleigh and Walter Jones of Farmville also called for a travel ban, as did GOP presidential hopefuls Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. Conservative commentators Glen Beck and Laura Ingraham condemned the president for not imposing a ban.

Holdingsaid a “comprehensive, multiagency response should employ all means necessary to keep the American people safe.”

U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan, the Democrat facing Tillis in a close race, thinks that travel restrictions “may be one tool we can use, but they should be part of a broader strategy, because simply sealing the borders to these countries won’t make the crisis go away,” said Chris Hayden, her campaign spokesman.

He added that Hagan “believes the U.S. should work together with the international community to take a wide range of steps to fight this epidemic and prevent it from spreading,” and is proud of the work of American medical personnel, troops and volunteers who are fighting the crisis.

Tom Frieden, the physician with training in infectious diseases who directs the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said he expected there would be increasing calls for travel restrictions. But doing so would make it harder to get volunteer medical personnel to those countries if people won’t be able to leave once they arrive, he said in a conference call with reporters on Thursday.

“And because of that, it will enable the disease to spread more widely there and ultimately, potentially spread more to other countries in Africa and become more of a risk to us here,” Frieden said.

U.S. Rep. David Price, a Democrat from Chapel Hill, said he accepted Frieden’s assessment. Price is the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security subcommittee of the House Appropriations Committee.

“The CDC believes travel restrictions would be counterproductive to eradicating Ebola in West Africa and could lead to greater loss of life. Politicizing the issue is irresponsible because it interferes with the ability of medical professionals to mitigate the threat of Ebola’s spread to the United States,” Price said. “When it comes to serious matters of global health, I will defer to medical experts rather than politicians.”

But Republican U.S. Sen. Richard Burr criticized the president for not doing enough.

“By all measures our response to Ebola has fallen short,” Burr said in a statement, adding that the United States had been “scrambling to catch up as the Ebola virus spirals out of control, leaving a path of unprecedented human devastation in West Africa.”

Burr criticized the administration for not appointing an official to be in charge of coordinating a national response.

White House press secretary Josh Earnest on Friday said there’s no consideration of a travel ban at this point. He credited a “sophisticated multi-layer screening system” at airports in Africa to make sure people don’t board an airplane if they have symptoms. Pilots, flight attendants and border control agents have been trained to look for signs of the disease, Earnest said.