The Pentagon is building, training, and implementing a 30-person rapid response team to be deployed if Ebola pops up again, the latest federal effort to contain both the deadly disease and growing public anxieties in the U.S.
The Department of Health and Human Services requested the team “as an added prudent measure to ensure our nation is ready to respond quickly, effectively and safely in the event of additional Ebola cases,” the Pentagon said. The team will include 20 critical-care nurses, five doctors trained in infectious disease, and five infectious-disease protocol trainers.
The announcement comes just days after the U.S. began heavily screening passengers arriving from Ebola hotspots and taking their temperatures before they were allowed into the country. A plurality of Americans disapprove of the country’s Ebola response and 120 Americans remain on the Ebola watch list, waiting out the 21-day monitoring period, the longest incubation period for the disease following exposure.
The second batch of Texans exposed to the deadly virus were cleared on Monday, after taking their temperature twice daily for the 21-day monitoring period. Officials emphasized that they pose “zero risk” to the community and urged the community to welcome them back into their daily lives. Five more are expected to come off the list this evening and later this week. By November 7, all exposed Texans will reach the end of their monitoring periods.
On Monday morning, Dallas officials urged calm and acceptance for the people returning to their daily lives.
“The world is watching Dallas and Dallas must learn whether it will respond with grace and compassion,” Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said in a press conference. He urged people to respond with kindness, noting particularly that he feared how students would respond to the five students’ return to school, and worrying about how Middle School students would respond to Duncan’s girlfriend’s son’s return. “Middle Schoolers are some of the most scary and ferocious beings,” he said.
Jenkins also apologized to the second nurse, Amber Vinson, and her family, for all the public criticism she’s received for flying with a low-grade fever. This weekend, they released a statement explaining that Vinson had been fully upfront with the authorities about her fever and had been cleared to fly. “Amber Vinson did nothing wrong,” he said, explaining that his team made a “mistake” in allowing her to fly. “We apologize.”
There have been three cases of Ebola diagnosed in the United States—the first, Duncan, was exposed in West Africa but diagnosed here; the second two, Vinson and Nina Pham, were nurses that cared for Duncan—but Americans fear has gone viral.
A poll last week saw that two thirds of the country feared a widespread Ebola outbreak and Republicans have seized on that anxiety, slamming the president for the country’s Ebola response.
Texas’ Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said one of the president’s “biggest mistakes” is allowing open commercial flights.
“We need to take a common-sense stand of suspending commercial air travel out of these countries,” Cruz said. “And for whatever reason, the Obama White House doesn’t want to.”
Cruz wasn’t the only Republican to reiterate their calls for flight bans, even as experts say that would hurt relief efforts in West Africa and , where the epidemic is ravaging the country, and might cause people to lie on screening forms and make the crucial contact tracing even harder.