President Obama raised the possibility on Thursday that he might appoint an “Ebola czar” to manage the government’s response to the deadly virus as anxiety grew over the air travel of an infected nurse. In other words, this means his appointing a single person in his administration to oversee the Ebola crisis and thus reject renewed Republican calls for a travel ban from Western African nations where the virus outbreak is centered.
“The most important thing, in addition to treating and monitoring anybody who even has a hint of potential exposure here in this country, the most important thing that I can do for keeping the American people safe is for us to be able to deal with Ebola at the source, where you got a huge outbreak in West Africa,” Obama said after meeting into the evening with top aides and health officials at the White House.
The president said he doesn’t have “a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe.” But he said that in all the discussions he’s had with experts, including infectious disease specialists, all he heard was that such a move would be counterproductive.
“If we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we’ve put in place now, history shows that there is a likelihood of increased avoidance,” Obama said.
In the meantime, a federal official said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had broadened its search for contacts of Amber Joy Vinson, the second nurse infected with Ebola at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.
The C.D.C. said it was now tracking down passengers on Frontier Airlines Flight 1142 from Dallas to Cleveland, which Ms. Vinson took last Friday. It had already been tracing passengers on her Monday flight.
Seven people in Ohio were voluntarily quarantined because they had contact with Ms. Vinson during her trip, health officials said on Thursday. Crewmembers from Ms. Vinson’s flight were put on a three-week paid leave. And anxieties mounted among parents and students who received notices that their local schools were being closed for cleanings.
“I understand people are scared,” president Obama said. “I do want everyone to understand it remains a very difficult thing to catch. The risks involved remain extremely low for ordinary folks.”