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Rick Scott Wants More Help from Feds on Ebola

October 16, 2014 - 6:00pm

Even as President Barack Obama named an Ebola czar on Friday, Gov. Rick Scott said Florida will start preparation efforts on its own.

Obama named Ron Klain, a former chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and former Vice President Al Gore, as the White Houses point man on Ebola preparation, on Friday. Klain had led Gores operations during the Florida recount during the 2000 presidential election. This week, members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called for the establishment of an Ebola czar.

Down in Florida on Friday, Gov. Rick Scott met with state officials and the leadership of the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport as he showcased the state efforts on Ebola. Scott called for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to step up its efforts in the Sunshine State.

"We are thankful we do not have a case of Ebola in Florida and we hope we never do, Scott said on Friday. But, my top priority is making sure that Florida stays safe. The CDC and the federal government have already admitted that they have failed to get ahead of the spread of Ebola in other states and we arent going to let that happen in Florida. We are not going to simply wait for the federal government to be prepared. We are taking action.

Today, we are demanding the attention of the CDC and the federal government to ensure we have what we need to be prepared to respond and keep our state safe, Scott added. The federal government should add Florida airports to the list of airports that are implementing additional screening for passengers. At this time, five U.S. airports have implemented these additional screenings, and Florida airports should be included.

Scott noted that hospitals across the Sunshine State are holding Ebola training programs and the Florida National Guard has two rapid response teams ready to go if an Ebola case occurs. The governor has also asked for $7 million in federal funds to purchase protective equipment and other supplies and for 30 Ebola testing kits.

In the meantime, members of the Florida congressional delegation continue to mostly line up behind travel bans against African nations impacted by Ebola. So far, the Obama administration has pushed back against any ban, saying it is not needed.

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., announced his support for a temporary travel ban on Thursday and urged U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to reconvene Congress and hold a vote on the matter.

To protect Americans from Ebola, the president needs to implement travel restrictions, up to and including a ban on flights from Ebola-affected countries, DeSantis said. He should also suspend visas for foreigners from these countries. The president has the authority to take these actions under existing law, but if he persists in refusing to act then Congress needs to compel action. I urge Speaker John Boehner to reconvene the House as soon as possible so the people's representatives can vote on these protective measures."

But even as fellow Florida Democrats like Nelson and U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson broke with the White House and demanded a travel ban on African nations impacted by Ebola, U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown came out against the idea.

Although I support strong measures to prevent the spread of Ebola, including additional screening at airports, I do not believe that a travel ban would make the citizens of the United States any more secure, Brown said on Thursday night. In fact, according to several global health organizations, more travel restrictions are not going to make the world safer when it comes to Ebola; instead, they might make the situation worse

Additionally, flight restrictions will only make it more difficult for lifesaving aid and medical professionals to reach West Africa, Brown added. Any discontinuation of transport will affect humanitarian aid, doctors, nurses, and human resources entering the affected countries. And according to the global health researchers who have modeled the risk of the international spread of Ebola, it is clear that the longer the outbreak goes on and the bigger it is, the more likely Ebola is going to spread beyond West Africa to the rest of the world and the United States. Certainly, the best way to prevent Ebola from spreading to the U.S. is to eradicate it in the afflicted West African countries. Beyond a doubt, it is imperative to prepare hospitals and providers to treat any cases in the U.S., as well as adequately funding our nations public health agencies.

Brown insisted current safeguards are enough, despite a Liberian national infected with Ebola flying from Africa to Dallas.

Travelers from the affected countries are already subjected to screening prior to departure from West Africa, Brown said. "They are also subjected to additional, enhanced screening upon arrival in the United States. Certainly, imposing a ban would give travelers an incentive to evade detection or conceal their travel history, which would make it even harder to ensure they are properly screened before entering the United States.

The First Coast Democrat said the Ebola scare showed how much America needed a surgeon general and hit Republicans for blocking the Obama administrations nominee to that position.

One other contributing difficulty is that the United States is currently without a surgeon general, since the former surgeon general departed in July 2013, Brown noted. Certainly, it is vital that the American people have a surgeon general to educate them about the disease and how to best protect their health. The surgeon general is Americas doctor, and the trusted medical spokesperson who can reassure the American public about the risk of exposure, and what precautions and protocols are being enacted to protect them. However, this position has been vacant for over one year and attempts to confirm Dr. Vivek Murthy have been blocked by Republicans since he was nominated in November 2013.

Reach Kevin Derby at or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN

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