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Obama names Ebola czar

President Obama meets with Cynthia Hogan, Counsel to the Vice-President and Ron Klain, Chief of Staff to the Vice President in the Oval Office. May 21, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Obama meets with Cynthia Hogan, Counsel to the Vice-President and Ron Klain, Chief of Staff to the Vice President in the Oval Office. May 21, 2009. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

WASHINGTON – The White House said Friday that President Obama has named an “Ebola Czar” to lead the nation’s response to the growing threat from the deadly disease.

A White House spokesperson said that President Obama has asked Ron Klain to coordinate the government’s comprehensive response to Ebola, disease that has claimed over 4,500 lives in Africa. He will report to the President Obama’s Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and his National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

As former Chief of Staff to two Vice Presidents, Klain comes to the job with extensive experience in overseeing complex governmental operations and has good working relationships with leading Members of Congress as well as senior Administration officials, the spokesperson said in a release.

“Klain’s talent and managerial skill will be crucial in providing the resources and expertise we need to rapidly, cohesively, and effectively respond to Ebola at home and abroad. As the President said, while “the dangers of a serious outbreak are extraordinarily low” in the U.S., “we are taking this very seriously at the highest levels of government.” Klain will be an integral part of ensuring that we effectively respond and ultimately bring an end to Ebola.”

This week, this White House said a health care worker from Dallas was transferred to Emory University Hospital for treatment after contracting the Ebola virus while helping to treat Thomas Eric Duncan, the first patient to have the disease in the U.S.

After meeting with his Cabinet officials and Dr. Tom Frieden of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the President updated the country on our comprehensive strategy to contain the disease, prevent its spread in the U.S., and combat it at its source in West Africa.

“The dangers of a serious outbreak are extraordinarily low” in the U.S., the President said. “But we are taking this very seriously at the highest levels of government.”

Here are the actions the President is putting into motion to ensure we effectively treat and prevent the spread of Ebola:

1) The CDC will now send a rapid response team, a “swat team, essentially” to be on the ground within 24 hours as soon as someone is diagnosed with Ebola so the CDC can walk the local hospital through the protocols step-by-step. That includes use and disposal of protective equipment.
2) We are communicating the lessons learned from the problems that occurred in Dallas to hospitals, clinics, and first-responders around the country on a ongoing and up-to-date basis.
3) We are working carefully with the city of Dallas and the state of Texas to ensure that, in the event any other cases arise among health workers, they are properly cared for in a way that is consistent with public safety.
4) We are “contact-tracing” to ensure that anyone who may have come into contact with the affected individuals are being monitored in a way to prevent the further spread of this disease.
5)We will continue to monitor the health status of the other health care workers in Dallas.
6) We will continue screening processes at airports and make sure teams are in place to transport suspected cases to specialized, secure hospitals if needed.
7) We will continue to lead the international response in West Africa because “the investment we make in helping Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea deal with this problem is an investment in our own public health.”

“This is not a situation in which, like a flu, the risks of a rapid spread of the disease are imminent,” the President said. “If we do these protocols properly, if we follow the steps, if we get the information out, then the likelihood of widespread Ebola outbreaks in this country are very, very low.”

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