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Florida Officials Continue to Push Obama on Ebola Readiness

October 14, 2014 - 6:00pm

This week, elected officials from Florida continued pressing the federal government for help and answers on combating Ebola.

Gov. Rick Scott said on Wednesday that the Florida Department of Health (DOH) is demanding the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) instruct health care workers on how to handle Ebola patients. After the death of a Liberian national from Ebola in a Dallas hospital, two health care workers who tried to treat him were infected.

Now that there is a second health care worker with Ebola in Dallas, we want Florida hospitals to hear directly from the CDC on how to best protect our health care workers on the front lines, Scott said. While the CDC has existing guidance, there have been public reports from nurses in Texas that either guidance was not followed, or the guidance for health care workers needs to be updated. Whatever the case may be, Florida hospitals must hear any new safety guidelines directly from the CDC in the next 48 hours so our hospitals are best prepared to protect the health of nurses, doctors and patients.

We are asking the CDC to hold a conference call with Florida hospitals on the best training and personal protective equipment protocols in the next 48 hours because we have to act with a sense of urgency to ensure our hospitals are prepared, Scott added. We have also informed the CDC of DOHs work to redirect federal grant funding, so we can purchase more personal protective equipment and other supplies to prepare for any case of Ebola in Florida. In light of this second case in Dallas today, we are asking the CDC to support our work to redirect these federal funds for Ebola preparedness, also within the next 48 hours.

Scotts team noted only 39 hospitals in Florida have finished Ebola training. The state government is looking to redirect $7 million in federal funds to Ebola preparedeness, including training and protection for health-care employees.

In the meantime, Florida congressmen keep the heat on President Barack Obama over Ebola readiness. U.S. Rep. Tom Rooney, R-Fla., sent a letter to Obama and members of his administration on Tuesday, asking what they plan to do to combat Ebola. Besides Obama, Rooney also wrote U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson and CDC Director Tom Frieden on the matter.

Rooney ripped Obamas handling of Ebola and the current crisis in the Middle East and called for Congress to return to Washington to tackle the matters.

The United States now faces two very different but grave national security threats the spread of Ebola from West Africa and the growth of IS in the Middle East, Rooney said on Tuesday. President Obama should present comprehensive response plans and authorization requests to combat these crises to Congress and the American people, and we should return to D.C. promptly to debate and vote on them.

My constituents are afraid, and few have confidence that the administrations response has been sufficient, Rooney added. Whats the next step to prevent exposing Americans to the disease? Why isnt the administration at least restricting tourist travel to and from Ebola-stricken countries? How do we account for individuals that arent stopped for screening or pass airport screening procedures because theyre not yet exhibiting symptoms? No one wants to stop humanitarian and medical assistance from reaching West Africa, but I fail to see any national security or humanitarian reason for allowing high-risk individuals like Mr. Duncan to enter our country for purely tourist reasons while the disease is uncontained.

Rooney called for limiting travel to Ebola-impacted nations in Africa and wanted answers on how the various federal agencies are handling matters.

Rather than issuing an outright refusal on further travel restrictions to and from West Africa, the U.S. should explore every feasible and available option to restrict all non-essential travel, Rooney wrote.

Other members of the Florida delegation also continue to press Obama on the issue. U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, D-Fla., has broken with the White House by backing a travel ban with impacted African nations, including signing-on to a letter to Obama backing it last week. Grayson doubled down on his efforts for the travel ban this week.

Foreign visitors must prove that they are vaccinated against whooping cough, Grayson noted on Monday. Why, then, do we admit visitors who may have Ebola?

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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