The Hill: House Dems call for US troops in Africa to give direct Ebola care
A trio of House Democrats is calling on President Obama to allow U.S. troops in West Africa to provide direct care to Ebola patients.
The Obama administration has already committed around 4,000 U.S. troops to help fight Ebola in the affected West African countries, but they are performing tasks such as building treatment centers and training local providers, not directly providing care.
Reps. Keith Ellison (Minn.), Karen Bass (Calif.), and Barbara Lee (Calif.) want to change that.
"We write to urge you to consider building on the current response to the Ebola epidemic by allowing military medical and technical personnel to provide direct care to and to come into contact with patients in West Africa," the representatives wrote in a letter to Obama.
The call comes as the World Health Organization says that there could be as many as 10,000 new Ebola cases every week within two months.
The lawmakers raised concerns that there would not be enough trained staff to care for Ebola patients if the U.S. did not directly intervene.
"The commitment of 4,000 military personnel, to assist with standing up Ebola Treatment Units (ETU) and logistical response are essential contributions," they wrote. "However, we have heard from those working in West Africa that there is uncertainty about who will staff the ETUs, who will manage them, and whether their level of experience under these conditions is commensurate with the task."
Obama canceled campaign trips to New Jersey and Connecticut on Wednesday to meet with Cabinet agency officials involved in the Ebola response. Earlier in the day, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that a second healthcare worker in the United States tested positive for the virus.
Many Republican lawmakers have called for a ban on travel to the U.S. from the affected countries, but the Democrats rejected that option in the letter.
"If the U.S. enacts policies like travel bans, which are not effective and discourage volunteer participation, we increase the chance of worsening the epidemic and the chance that new cases arrive in the U.S," they wrote. "Instead, we should be offering incentives for volunteers and assurances that they will have access to everything they need to be as safe as possible at all times."