By Byron Shehee
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY—Last week Senator Richard Shelby, Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, delivered comments on the U.S. Government’s response to the Ebola outbreak to the Appropriations Committee during a Full Committee Hearing.
Shelby spoke specifically to President Obama’s lack of preparedness and his request of $6 Billion dollars to address the Ebola outbreak in Africa and any future outbreaks in the United States.
The Senator cited the size of the request, the administration’s complete lack of preparedness, and the absence of a detailed plan on how the money would be spent as reasons to carefully monitor the request.
Shelby then spoke to the fundamental responsibility of the Federal government to respond effectively to future outbreaks. He expressed concern over the lack of preparedness and readiness that was demonstrated before the disease first reached the U.S. Shelby said, “what we have witnessed these past few months from various agencies has been confusing and at times contradictory.”
Shelby specifically named the Center For Dieses Control’s (CDC) guidance to hospitals as an area of concern. Healthcare workers and critics have agreed that the CDC has repeatedly changed the rules and made it difficult to follow. Furthermore, Shelby expressed concern over the possibility that U.S. healthcare personnel could be subject to unnecessary risk if proper protocol is not established.
Shelby cited glaring inconsistencies in Defense Secretary Hagel’s plan. The senator highlighted the troops being quarantined for a mandatory 21 days but the plan allowed passengers to travel into the U.S. without adequate airport screenings. The administration did not call for enhanced airport screenings for those entering the U.S. from West Africa for months after learning of the threat.
The public should not be completely confident in the President’s selection as Ebola “czar” to coordinate our country’s defense. Shelby said, “all reports indicate that he has no actual authority to direct government agencies.” Statements like this can only raise the question of whether the administration has given this problem the attention it deserves or if there’s only been minimal preparation.
In closing Shelby said, “If history of disease outbreaks has taught us anything, it is that things can change quickly and without warning. Therefore, our Federal agencies must be ready to aggressively implement a clear and organized strategy.”
Currently it is reported that roughly 5,000 people have died from Ebola in West Africa, mainly in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
On Saturday, Martin Salia died from Ebola in Omaha. He was the second person to die from Ebola on U.S. soil. Salia had been working in Sierra Leone. He first tested negative on Nov. 7 and then tested positive on Nov. 10.