After moving on Tuesday to funnel all travelers from western Africa through five different U.S. airports for medical checks, the Obama Administration dramatically expanded its efforts to track possible cases of Ebola, by announcing that all travelers from countries hit by the virus would have to be monitored for three weeks after they arrive in the United States.
“They have to be monitored for temperature daily for the 21 day period,” said CDC chief Dr. Tom Frieden, who announced the new measures in a conference call with reporters.
“We’re tightening the process by establishing active monitoring for every traveler who returns to this country after a visit to one of the three affected countries,” Frieden added.
This plan won’t just affect those who are citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, but will also hit anyone who has traveled there – reporters, aid workers, medical teams and anyone else would have to be monitored for 21 days after flying back to the United States.
“It’s to try to put in place the kind of policies that we believe will do the most to protect the American people,” said White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, who shrugged off questions that the move was an effort to short circuit calls for a travel ban from western Africa.
The program of extra tests will initially begin in six states that are the destination for 70 percent of the people who fly to the U.S. from western Africa: New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Georgia.
“This measure has been in the works for some time,” Frieden told reporters – but he had given no hints before today that anything this extensive would be in the works.
Some screened at U.S. airports detained for extra care
During his call with reporters, Dr. Frieden refused to directly answer questions about reports that several people had been hospitalized after being checked at U.S. airports, as they were found to have had some symptoms that might have hinted at the Ebola virus.
Later, a CDC official confirmed that had happened recently at Washington’s Dulles airport.
“Two ill passengers were transported from Dulles to a local hospital for medical evaluation, along with two travel companions who had no symptoms or risk factors. Both were assessed at the hospital and discharged. They are currently being monitored by local public health officials,” the CDC said in a written statement.
Another CDC official contacted me later in the day to say that others stopped in both Chicago and in New Jersey had been allowed to go after a further medical check; that official compared it to many reports of someone possibly having Ebola, but then a quick medical review would show that is not the case.