Obama calls for 'urgency' on Ebola efforts
© Getty Images

President Barack Obama urged 1,500 state health leaders on Wednesday to do their part to prevent the spread of Ebola, calling them “partners in this fight” against the deadly disease.
Speaking hours after the first U.S. Ebola patient was pronounced dead in a Dallas hospital, the president instructed local authorities to follow federal guidelines precisely to prepare for a potential case of the deadly disease. He said it was crucial to respond with “an appropriate sense of urgency.”

“As we saw in Dallas, we don’t have a lot of margin for error. If we don’t follow protocols and procedures that are put in place, then we’re putting folks in our communities at risk,” Obama said on the conference call. “So we have to follow the procedures and protocols that have been established based on the science.”

Obama’s warning hinted at failings by Texas Presbyterian Hospital, which initially failed to diagnose the Liberian man infected with Ebola. It was the first time Ebola had ever been diagnosed in the U.S.


While Duncan had contracted the disease in Liberia, his case raised nationwide concerns over the preparedness of U.S. hospitals, and spurred dozens of federal and state health officials to step up their own responses. Connecticut declared a public health emergency on Tuesday.

Obama reiterated that the national healthcare system is equipped to prevent the spread of Ebola. He called on local health leaders to assuage public fears by correcting the record on how the disease is spread.
“The American people are reasonably concerned — Ebola is a terrible disease, and the fact that in an interconnected world infectious disease can be transported across borders is one of the reasons we have to take it seriously,” Obama said.

“At the same time, as I think all of us have tried to emphasize, it’s important that, as public officials, we know and reinforce the facts,” he added.

Five White House officials also joined the call, including Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson.
Local leaders were allowed to ask questions of the federal officials, though the call was closed to press. The White House provided a transcript of only the president's remarks.

Obama added that the risk of Ebola spreading in the U.S. “remains extremely low.” 

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who participated in the call, later released a statement criticizing the Obama administration for failing to help his state prepare.

“We are still urging the President to fulfill our request for 30 testing kits the state has requested from the CDC and an additional 100 units of high-level protective gear," Scott, a Republican, wrote in a statement. 

He also urged federal authorities to step up travel restrictions to prevent Ebola-infected passengers from entering the U.S., echoing simliar calls from GOP leaders including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He said the decision to restrict travel was "common sense," and not based on party politics.

"I assume the administration is doing everything they can to secure our country and combat the spread of this disease. That is what we are doing in Florida and I assume they are taking the same steps at the federal level,” Scott wrote.