President Barack Obama said Monday that officials are developing additional procedures to stop Ebola-carrying foreigners from flying into the United States.
The federal government is “going to be working on protocols to do additional passenger screening, both at the source [in Africa] and here in the United States,” Obama told reporters during a staged meeting with cabinet officials. Obama not describe the procedures, or how extensively they would be implemented.
The White House’s formal “read-out” describing the meeting said that officials “discussed options to enhance airport screenings in the United States.”
The comments may be a PR move to mollify worried Americans.
However, they’re likely a policy reversal, because they contradict repeated recent statements from Obama’s deputies that the administration was not considering a travel ban on people living in the diseased-countries, despite rising public support for a ban.
Obama’s new statement matches a statement from Obama’s main spokesman, Josh Earnest. “What we’re looking to do is review these screening measures,” Earnest said Oct. 6.
Earnest made that statement as news services reported that a nurse in Spain contracted the deadly disease from a Spanish priest and doctor who was working in Sierra Leone.
In recent days, GOP politicians and some experts have called for reduced travel from diseased countries to the United States, Europe, Indian and other vulnerable regions.
Obama and his staff are normally reluctant to admit error or even to acknowledge changes in policy. Instead, they tend to change damaging policies via lower-level rule changes, without admitting they’re changing anything.
Currently, airline officials are suggesting they want to consider tougher screening rules to deter more Ebola-infected people from flying in the United States in search of life-saving, and effectively free, medical care.
Currently, federal officials insisted that low-wage people at airports in Africa will resist bribes and can be trusted to apply rules that keep their friends, relatives and fellow countrymen trapped in a diseased country, far away from life-saving care in the developed world.
Officials also publicly assume that sick disease-carriers won’t arrive in the United States before their symptoms show, or won’t take over-the-counter drugs to hide Ebola-caused spikes in body temperatures, even though their lives may depend on getting into an American hospital.
The first Liberian disease-carrier arrived on Sept. 20, and was let into the country by border officials before his symptoms became obvious.
That person is now being treated with an experimental drug dubbed “Brincidofovir” that is not available to anyone else in Africa.
U.S. officials are also monitoring and quarantining people that he lived with or met during the week before he was hospitalized.