Federal officials falsely assured Americans during the 2014 Ebola outbreak that all people coming here from disease-stricken countries underwent rigorous screening, according to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General
The Customs and Border Patrol said it screened all travelers flying from Ebola-stricken West African countries, but the DHS IG’s report made public Wednesday revealed that at least 169 individuals from the region were allowed to enter the United States without being properly screened.
Some CBP employees mistakenly thought U.S. government employees, United Nations personnel and other dignitaries were exempt from Ebola screening, due in part to a serious lack of training on how to handle the deadly disease’s outbreak.
Other CBP personnel never bothered to screen some passengers even though they voluntarily disclosed that they were coming from Ebola-stricken nations. CBP headquarters also only arranged for contracted personnel to take travelers’ temperatures at the five U.S. airports with the most passengers from Ebola-affected countries, while passengers landing at other airports were unchecked. When CBP and the Centers for Disease Control provided too few staff members to take temperatures, passengers were expected to do it themselves.
“As a result, some passengers with potential risk of Ebola exposure may have entered the United States without thorough screening, and the DHS workforce performing the response was not always appropriately protected,” the IG said. When CBP did screen for Ebola, “multiple” human errors made the data “unreliable.”
The failure of federal officials to coordinate their duties and responsibilities for domestic Ebola screening resulted in an inadequate and potentially dangerous response, the report said.
CBP also failed to check all boat passengers from Ebola-stricken nations bound for the U.S.
Most U.S. Coast Guard personnel helping check ports lacked up-to-date Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear training to handle the disease. For example, only three of the 95 Corpus Christie USCG personnel had received such training.
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