The White House is launching an aggressive, public campaign to counter the movement of some states – most notably New York and New Jersey – to quarantine American health care professionals who return from treating Ebola victims in West Africa.
Obama made an unscheduled statement on the South Lawn this afternoon to highlight what he said was the need to support health care workers when they return home, support which presumably would not include isolating them. And in a staged event designed to draw attention to the issue, Obama will meet at the White House Wednesday with a group of health care professionals who have been treating Ebola patients.
The combative, almost political nature of the effort suggests the fingerprints of Ebola coordinator Ron Klain, whose background is as a Democratic political operative. Nevertheless, the aggressive nature of the campaign also suggests the White House has concluded that quarantining health workers could have disastrous consequences for the effort to quash the disease.
The president today repeatedly insisted the protocols for the health workers should be guided by “science” and “facts,” implying that the moves to quarantine health workers were ultimately irrational.
“America in the end is not defined by fear,” Obama said. “We don’t just react based on our fears – we react based on judgments.”
Obama pressed the case that hampering the ability of U.S. health care workers to head to West Africa and back would imperil worldwide efforts to stop the disease before it gets to the United States.
“If we don’t have robust response in West Africa, we are endangering ourselves at home,” he said. “They are doing God’s work over there, and they’re doing that to keep us safe.”