President Barack Obama said the deadly Ebola outbreak that has claimed nearly 5,000 lives in West Africa will be defeated as U.S. hospitals and health care workers are stepping up to contain the disease within America. Obama said only two people have contracted Ebola in the U.S. during a brief speech Tuesday that marked his latest attempt to reassure the American public that the disease will not be a major health threat. "This disease can be contained. It will be defeated," he said.
Obama defended the U.S. Army's new policy to quarantine military members returning from West Africa as Republicans lawmakers have called for a similar policy for all travelers, including health care workers, returning from the outbreak epicenter. "They are, first of all, not treating patients," Obama said. "Second of all, they are not there voluntarily." Obama said the nation should not expect to have similar rules for military members and civilians.
"America in the end is not defined by fear. That's not who we are," he said. "We don't just react based on our fears, we react based on facts and judgment." Obama said the U.S. should not make it difficult for health care workers to return home after traveling to West Africa to combat the outbreak. "They are doing God's work over there," he said. "If they are successful, we're not going to have to worry about Ebola here at home."
Obama's speech came after the White House criticized New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie for their decision Friday to quarantine aid workers returning from treating Ebola patients in West Africa. Both the Centers for Disease Control and the White House said those requirements will discourage health workers from volunteering to fight the viral outbreak in West Africa and create “false impressions” of the virus’ contagion.
Under its new policy, the Army will enact mandatory 21-day isolation requirements for all personnel returning from aid work in Ebola-stricken countries, even if they don’t show symptoms of the virus.
Obama met Friday with Ebola survivor Nina Pham, 26, in the White House and embraced her in a moment seemingly designed to calm American fears about the disease. Pham and fellow nurse Amber Vinson contracted Ebola after treating victim Thomas Eric Duncan of Liberia at the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in September. Both women have been released from treatment after being declared free of the Ebola virus.