Senator John Thune
As the old English proverb says, “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” Responsiveness and preparedness are critical to containing and eliminating dangerous threats and epidemics across our country. The recent outbreak and spread of the Ebola virus, including cases in the U.S., are raising serious concerns among government officials and the American people about our country’s ability to protect the public from the transmission of the Ebola virus and other infectious diseases.
Americans have been asked to believe that the administration has the Ebola outbreak under control, but the latest revelation that a healthcare worker in Dallas boarded an aircraft to Cleveland after treating an Ebola patient who later died only underscores the need for the U.S. government to reevaluate our response and preparedness strategy for combatting this deadly virus.
To better protect the public from additional cases of Ebola in the U.S., which has proven difficult to manage even in a hospital setting, I believe the U.S. should institute a ban on travelers who either live in or have recently traveled to Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia from entering the country. A temporary travel ban for individuals traveling from these most affected countries in West Africa would give the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more time to get its arms around the problem, and understand how to reliably contain the virus domestically as efforts to contain and treat the outbreak continue overseas. I believe a temporary freeze on Visa holders traveling from Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia will also help contain the spread of the virus. Like the travel ban, the visa freeze should be re-evaluated every 30 days with a consideration to extend or expand it.
While some in the international community have expressed concern about how a travel ban could impact aid workers traveling to and from certain Africa countries, I believe there are other measures that can be taken to transport aid workers and supplies into affected countries. Of course, a travel ban is only part of the solution. Once such restrictions are imposed, we must continue to vigorously combat the disease at its source and strengthen screening of international travelers seeking to enter the U.S. from high-risk regions.
On October 14th, I sent a letter with House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Bill Shuster (R-Pennsylvania) to U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson requesting detailed information about their plans and protocols to prevent further transmission of Ebola and other infectious diseases within the U.S., especially given our interconnected transportation network.As the top Republican on the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, which has jurisdiction over our nation’s transportation network, I am committed to pressing for common-sense measures to better prevent the spread of Ebola here in the U.S. and to containing and treating the outbreak overseas.