Rep. Kelly Demands Action & Answers from President Obama to Stop Ebola Virus

Sends letter to White House seeking explanation of
serious and proactive strategy” to protect nation from disease

WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Representative Mike Kelly (R-PA) issued the following statement today after sending a letter to President Obama urgently requesting information regarding the administration’s handling of the recent Ebola virus outbreak and details of a comprehensive strategy to stop the virus from affecting Americans. A copy of the letter can be viewed here.

Statement by Rep. Kelly:

“This is a Paul Revere moment for the American people. Every citizen from coast to coast should be alert, informed, and totally engaged in our nation’s fight to thwart this disease. The potentially catastrophic threat posed by Ebola cannot be underestimated. Americans have every reason to be alarmed and should not hesitate to hold our federal government accountable for the actions it takes — and neglects to take. It is the government’s first and most fundamental Constitutional duty to protect its citizens from harm. The time for the president to take strong, competent, and decisive action is now. When a house is burning, the sooner the water starts pouring, the better. The same goes for this virus. This is not a Republican issue or a Democrat issue — it is a challenge to all Americans that must be matched before it’s too late.”

Excerpts of Rep. Kelly’s letter to President Obama:

I write today to express my deep concern regarding the spread of the Ebola virus and its entry into the United States.  Just this past week, it was reported that Thomas Eric Duncan, who entered the United States from Liberia, tested positive for Ebola.  In spite of his exposure, his travel was not stopped and he arrived in Dallas, Texas, by plane.  On behalf of my constituents and the American people, I request a detailed explanation for the lack of action by your administration to prevent the spread of Ebola to our nation.  I also request a thorough explanation of your administration’s strategy going forward to combat the Ebola virus from becoming a global pandemic.

Just weeks ago, you stated that it was “unlikely” that an individual infected with Ebola would come to the U.S.  Regrettably, that unlikely scenario has become a reality and our nation is in need of a serious solution.  Your appraisal of the situation was likely based on the history of previous outbreaks.  However, Peter Piot, who was a member of the team that discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, has stated that it has been clear to him since this past June that there is something fundamentally different about this outbreak.

The case of Mr. Duncan, coupled with the fatal nature and spread of this disease, demonstrates the need for a proactive and comprehensive response from the United States.  For this reason, I am requesting an answer to the following questions: 

1. A rule proposed in 2005 by President George W. Bush’s administration would have empowered the federal government to detain sick airline passengers and passengers exposed to certain diseases.  The rule was abandoned by your administration in 2009.  Can you elucidate the rationale driving the decision to abandon the rule and address whether, in light of the case of Mr. Duncan, the 2009 decision should be reevaluated? 

2. Does your administration have the authority, under the Immigration and Naturalization Act, to halt travel to nations on account of public health concerns?  If so, does your administration think such an action would be prudent now or at some future juncture? 

The U.S. must lead in arresting its spread while taking proactive measures to protect our nation and its people from the potential of devastating impact.  For this reason, it is my position that you should utilize your authority halt all commercial flights from the affected nations until the outbreak is contained.  You should also use your position of leadership to encourage other nations to do the same. It should be clear to all knowledgeable parties that containment of Ebola will not be possible as long as there is a constant flow of individuals arriving and leaving the nations that have the highest incidence.

NOTE: On October 9, 2014, Rep. Kelly sent a separate letter to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Sylvia Burwell, and the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Tom Frieden. The letter expresses Rep. Kelly's deep concern about the possibility of the Ebola virus spreading to Pennsylvania, and poses the following four questions:

  1. What communication and training has occurred between the CDC and Pennsylvania’s health care community including hospitals, local health care clinics, urgent care centers, and physicians?
  1. Is there a statewide call number for health care professionals and the public to contact if there are Ebola preparedness concerns?   
  1. If there is an Ebola outbreak in Pennsylvania, what is the CDC’s contingency operation plans and what information have you disseminated to the above-mentioned health care groups?  
  1. Do you believe there is health care facility in the Commonwealth that is capable of handling several infected individuals at once or would they need to be transported to another facility?

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett was copied on the letter, a copy of which can be viewed here.