President Barack Obama did not rule out the notion of appointing an “Ebola czar” but dismissed calls for a travel ban to combat the infectious disease during remarks to the press from within the Oval Office on Thursday.
“It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person,” the president said, acknowledging that while he stood behind the efforts of his administration, a single individual might be better positioned to coordinate the U.S. response to the crisis.
“If I appoint somebody, I will let you know,” he said.
The president spoke to reporters after convening a meeting of his response team tasked with tackling the ongoing Ebola outbreak, which has led to two U.S. citizens being infected with the deadly virus.
“I’ve been focused on making sure we’re dealing with this problem at the source,” President Obama said, before highlighting U.S. efforts to provide resources and aid to fight the spread of Ebola in West Africa. He called on foreign leaders to contribute more to the cause, which he admitted is “taking longer than it should” to be resolved.
Meanwhile, the president dismissed calls from some prominent figures, including his frequent nemesis Donald Trump, to shut down travel to and from Africa.
“I don’t have a philosophical objection necessarily with a travel ban if that is going to keep the American people safe,” Obama said, though he argued that experts have assured him that the current screening methods in place would be more effective than a ban.
“I understand that people are scared,” the president said. But he also made a concerted effort to downplay the brewing hysteria over the Ebola outbreak, by reminding reporters that the two women diagnosed with Ebola had direct contact with the bodily fluids of the late Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola victim on U.S. soil, and that “this is not an airborne disease and not easy to catch.”
“This will be contained,” Obama said. “The risks involved remain extremely low for ordinary folks.”
Still, the president stressed the importance of making sure health care workers who are “on the front lines” of treating and combating Ebola get the proper protection and that the public is prepared for a rash of false claims as flu season approaches.
“The work we have to do overseas is going to be a lot tougher,” conceded Obama.