Feds practice Ebola evacuations despite past Trump criticism

AP News
Posted: Apr 18, 2017 4:24 PM
Feds practice Ebola evacuations despite past Trump criticism

WASHINGTON (AP) — Donald Trump railed against President Barack Obama's decision to bring patients with Ebola to the United States for treatment in 2014. Now that Trump is president, his administration is preparing for similar, and possibly larger-scale, evacuations.

The State Department and Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday they led an unprecedented inter-agency drill last week to test their preparedness to deal with a new outbreak of Ebola or another deadly, highly infectious disease. In the drill, 11 simulated patients were flown in specially designed bio-containment containers on a pair of 747s and three smaller Gulfstream jets from Sierra Leone to Washington's Dulles International Airport.

From Dulles, the purported patients then went to five medical facilities across the U.S — Bellevue Hospital in New York City, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, the Denver Health Medical Center in Denver and the University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha. The patients were played by non-infected volunteers, officials said.

"The scope of this exercise is unprecedented and a testament to the lessons learned and then changes made in the aftermath of the Ebola outbreak," said Dr. William Walters, the managing director for operational medicine at the State Department, which coordinates the evacuations until patients clear U.S. customs and immigration. He said the U.S. was "largely unprepared" for the Ebola crisis three years ago.

During the 2014 Ebola outbreak, 46 health care workers who became infected or were exposed to the virus were brought to special treatment centers in the United States, officials said.

As a private citizen, Trump scathingly criticized Obama for his response to the Ebola outbreak, even though health experts credited U.S. efforts for helping resolve the crisis. On Twitter and in numerous interviews, Trump called Obama "incompetent" and "nuts" and demanded that evacuations be halted, saying they were dangerous and a threat to public health in America.

Trump also called numerous times for a ban on flights to the U.S. from Ebola-infected nations, and a visa ban on citizens of those countries.