President Barack Obama delivered an implicit rebuke to states that have already launched strict Ebola quarantine rules on Tuesday, warning they could undermine the government’s efforts to stop the spread of the virus.
Speaking to reporters before departing the White House for a campaign trip in Wisconsin, the U.S. presisent said the “disease can be contained—it will be defeated,” mentioning that certain progress has been made by the state’s military forces on the ground in West Africa assisting with the response.
“The good news is it’s starting to have an impact,” he said. “They’re starting to see some progress in Liberia.”
“We don’t want to discourage our healthcare workers from going to the front lines and dealing with this in an effective way,” Obama told reporters at the White House South Lawn.
He went on, adding that these medical workers, often volunteers for international humanitarian groups, should be “applauded, thanked and supported.”
“And we can make sure that when they come back, they are being monitored in a prudent fashion. But we want to make sure that we understand that they are doing God’s work over there. And they’re doing that to keep us safe,” Obama added.
“We don’t just react based on our fears, we react based on facts and judgement and making smart decisions,” he said, in a critique of the governors. “We’re going to have to stay vigilant here at home until we stop the outbreak at its source.”
“The president is likely to emphasize his support for traveling Ebola medics in a speech set for Wednesday afternoon at a White House event with doctors and nurses who are volunteering in West Africa,” Reuters writes.
Federal health officials and others have opposed stricter state measures as potentially counterproductive, insisting that they could deter American doctors and other healthcare professionals from volunteering to help fight the epidemic at its source in West Africa.
“We don’t want to do things that aren’t based on science and best practices because if we do then we’re just putting another barrier on somebody who’s already doing really important work on our behalf,” Obama said, noting that containing the outbreak in Africa will make Americans safer from Ebola.
The first person quarantined under New Jersey’s policy was Kaci Hickox, a nurse who tested negative for the virus but was isolated for days in a tent at a Newark hospital. She said her “basic human rights” were violated.
Meanwhile, in Atlanta, nurse Amber Vinson was released from Emory University Hospital after being declared virus-free a few days ago. The president said he spoke with the former patient by telephone on Tuesday.
“I’m so grateful to be well,” a smiling Vinson told reporters at Emory University Hospital before hugging the doctors and nurses who had treated her since Oct. 15.
“While this is a day for celebration and gratitude, I ask that we not lose focus on the thousands of families who continue to labor under the burden of this disease in West Africa,” added Vinson, looking fit.