Two Republican members of Congress called Wednesday for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden to resign from his post after a second Texas health worker tested positive for Ebola. The calls for Frieden’s removal came just hours before he and other top disease-prevention experts were slated to testify in front of a House committee on ongoing efforts to prevent Ebola’s spread.
"This Ebola situation is beginning to spiral beyond control. The reports my colleagues and I have received are utterly unacceptable and the information provided to the public has been cryptic and in some cases misleading," Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) said in a statement, according to Bloomberg. "This has provided a false sense of security to many of our citizens. That is exactly the opposite of the CDC director's primary responsibilities—to communicate clearly and honestly. I have no ill will toward him personally but he should resign his position effective immediately."
When asked by conservative talk-show host Laura Ingraham if Frieden should resign, Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX) agreed with Marino’s assertion. “My opinion is yes,” he said.
The negative reaction to Frieden’s Ebola strategy appears to be the first blemish on his otherwise stellar record of public service. He was named CDC director by the White House in 2009 after seven years as the commissioner of the New York City Health Department. Under his watch, New York City greatly reduced smoking among teenagers and combated the prevalence of trans fat on restaurant menus. Prior to that, he spent 12 years working at the CDC, where he developed a reputation for successful treatment and control of tuberculosis.
He was part of a World Health Organization initiative that was credited with saving more than 3 million lives in India, according to his CDC bio. Upon appointment to his current position, Frieden was immediately tasked with spearheading the government’s bid to prevent the spread of the H1N1 influenza virus, known colloquially as swine flu.
The CDC’s efforts to contain the spread of Ebola drew increased skepticism in recent days amid Frieden’s repeated assurances that the organization knows how to stop the disease. “Ebola is scary. It’s a deadly disease. But we know how to stop it,” he said during an Oct. 8 press briefing.
Since the Oct. 8 death of Thomas Eric Duncan – the Liberian national who became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. – two nurses have contracted the disease, one of whom was allowed after exposure to take a commercial flight from Dallas to Cleveland.
Shortly after the second health official’s diagnosis, Frieden admitted the CDC should have immediately dispatched a disease control team after Duncan’s condition became known. “It was the first case of Ebola diagnosed in the U.S., and I think all of us look at what we did and what we could have done differently because there should never be a health care worker infected,” he said Tuesday, according to the New York Times. “If a health care worker gets infected, that’s on us, all of us.”
Critics have expressed particular outrage at Frieden’s unwillingness to initiate a travel ban to Ebola-afflicted nations in West Africa. “We don't want to isolate parts of the world, or people who aren't sick, because that's going to drive patients with Ebola underground, making it infinitely more difficult to address the outbreak,” he said in an op-ed for Fox News.