CDC names 35 official Ebola treatment centers

The federal government is designating 35 hospitals around the country as treatment centers for Ebola, in case another person with the disease arrives unexpectedly in the United States. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) made the announcement Tuesday after state health officials vetted the facilities. While criticism of the government's handling of Ebola has died down, experts said designating certain medical sites Ebola-ready was long overdue. 

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"As long as Ebola is spreading in West Africa, we must prepare for the possibility of additional cases in the United States," said CDC Director Tom Frieden in a written statement. 

"We are implementing and constantly strengthening multiple levels of protection, including increasing the number of hospitals that have the training and capabilities to manage the complex care of an Ebola patient," Frieden added. "These hospitals have worked hard to rigorously assess their capabilities and train their staff." 

The list of hospitals is designed to partly alleviate pressure on three facilities that have handled the bulk of U.S. Ebola care: Emory University Hospital, Nebraska Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. 

The new sites are centered in metropolitan areas in 11 states, primarily in the northeast. New York City has four designated Ebola facilities, and Washington has three. 

The CDC said that nearly every person returning from an Ebola-stricken country lives within 200 miles of a hospital on the list. The agency is also working to prepare hospitals as "assessment" centers, where patients could receive care prior to an official Ebola diagnosis. Once diagnosed, the patient would be transferred to one of the 35 designated hospitals. 

The steps are part of an increasingly stringent anti-Ebola program initiated by the Obama administration after a chaotic response in Dallas failed to save the first U.S. Ebola patient. A total of 10 people have been treated for Ebola in the United States, and two have died.

"We continue our efforts to strengthen domestic preparedness and hospital readiness. I am pleased to announce that 35 hospitals have been designated by state health officials as Ebola treatment centers that are prepared, trained, and ready to provide care for a patient with Ebola," said Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia M. Burwell in a statement.

The administration has ramped up protections against Ebola, even as GOP lawmakers have called for banning travel from West Africa, a step the Obama administration says it will not take.

Passengers arriving from the three main countries plagued with Ebola now must travel through one of five U.S. airports, undergo health screenings and in some cases agree to disease monitoring by health officials.