POLITICS
10/06/2014 02:39 pm ET Updated Oct 07, 2014

Obama Administration Pooh-Poohs Bobby Jindal's Ebola Travel Ban Plan

WASHINGTON -- The Obama administration is not on board with Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's (R) proposal to ban travel from Ebola-stricken countries.

"A travel ban is not something that we're currently considering," White House press secretary Josh Earnest said in a press briefing Monday. "There already is a multi-layered screening protocol in place in our transportation system."

Jindal, who is one of many Republicans considering a presidential run, said in a press release Friday that the administration ought to stop flights to the U.S. from West Africa. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed last week that a Dallas hospital patient had caught Ebola after traveling to the U.S. from Liberia.

"President Obama said it was 'unlikely' that Ebola would reach the U.S. Well, it has, and we need to protect our people," Jindal said, questioning the administration's claim that a travel ban would be detrimental. "How exactly would stopping the entry of people potentially carrying the Ebola virus be counterproductive? This seems to be an obvious step to protect public health in the United States."

As it happens, CDC director Tom Frieden explained how travel bans could be counterproductive during a Saturday press conference.

Frieden suggested that a travel ban would make it more difficult for the U.S. to provide assistance to countries in need, thereby making the virus even more dangerous.

"Paradoxically, something that we did to try to protect ourselves might actually increase our risk," he said.

Frieden noted as an example that on his recent trip to Liberia, hundreds of health workers en route to the Ebola-ravaged country had gotten stuck in neighboring Senegal.

"Senegal had taken that action in order to protect themselves, stopping all flights, but that action ended up making it harder to stop the outbreak in Liberia and elsewhere and potentially increased the risk to that country," Frieden said.

"Although we might wish we could seal ourselves off from the world, there are Americans who have the right of return. There are many other people who have the right to enter into this country," Frieden said. "[W]e're not going to be able to get to zero risk, no matter what we do, unless and until we control the outbreak in West Africa."

Jindal was apparently unmoved by the explanation, reiterating on Monday afternoon that a travel ban is "common sense."

During the White House briefing, Earnest expressed confidence in the screening systems already in place.

"There are extensive screening measures on the ground in West Africa, where this outbreak has occurred, to ensure that individuals that have symptoms of Ebola -- in other words, are contagious -- cannot board international aircraft," he said. "There also is a protocol in place for Customs and Border Protection officers who are manning our ports of entry to be on the lookout for individuals that may be exhibiting symptoms of Ebola."

"We have a lot of confidence in that multi-layered system," Earnest added. "At the same time, we continue to assess if additional steps would be useful in enhancing the safety either of the traveling public or the American public here at home."

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