U.S. President Barack Obama again encouraged Americans to be “guided by the facts, not fear” in their assessments of Ebola virus disease as he discussed the first confirmed case in New York and the national response by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in his weekly address Saturday. Obama also mentioned the recoveries of Ashoka Mukpo and Nina Pham, who both tested negative for Ebola this week, and stressed the difficulty of contracting the virus.
The first Ebola patient in New York, Dr. Craig Spencer, tested positive for the virus Thursday. The physician, who treated patients in West Africa, went bowling in Brooklyn after he returned but before he developed a fever. Obama praised the response of New York and its residents during his weekly address. At the federal level, CDC officials were dispatched to the hospital treating Spencer, as was the agency’s rapid-response team.
“In New York City, medical personnel moved quickly to isolate and care for the patient there -- a doctor who recently returned from West Africa. The city and state of New York have strong public-health systems, and they’ve been preparing for this possibility,” Obama said. He applauded the “spirit” of New Yorkers in the wake of the news about the city’s first confirmed case of Ebola. “Yesterday, New Yorkers showed us the way. They did what they do every day: jumping on buses, riding the subway, crowding into elevators, heading into work, gathering in parks. That spirit -- that determination to carry on -- is part of what makes New York one of the great cities in the world,” the president said.
Obama also covered new CDC guidelines and protocols to better prepare hospitals ahead of possible Ebola cases and the creation of a corps of medical staff under the auspices of the Pentagon.
In addition, the president discussed the latest airport procedures adopted to help keep Ebola in check. Complement the screening programs already in place in five airports, travelers from West Africa must now self-monitor their temperature for 21 days. “New travel measures are now directing all travelers from the three affected countries in West Africa into five U.S. airports where we’re conducting additional screening. Starting this week, these travelers will be required to report their temperatures and any symptoms on a daily basis -- for 21 days until we’re confident they don’t have Ebola,” he said.
However, Obama did not discuss the mandatory quarantines of so-called high-risk travelers announced by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday.
Meanwhile, the president reiterated how difficult it is to contract Ebola, citing as evidence the people who lived with Thomas Eric Duncan, the patient whose case of the disease was the first diagnosed in the U.S., and hundreds of potential contacts with him and others who were cleared after 21-day monitoring periods. Duncan died of the disease Oct. 8.
“We have to be guided by the science -- we have to be guided by the facts, not fear,” Obama said, echoing a refrain sounded in his weekly address Oct. 18.