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ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT
Nurse May Have Been Ill Days Before Diagnosis; Interview with Congressman Cory Gardner of Colorado; President Addresses Ebola Crisis in U.S
Aired October 16, 2014 - 19:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN HOST: OUTFRONT tonight, breaking news, the second nurse diagnosed with Ebola sick four days before being hospitalized and now another plane-load of passengers possibly exposed to the deadly virus.
Plus the head of CDC under fire on Capitol Hill ducking questions on mistakes about how his agency has handled the crisis, this as calls for Thomas Frieden's resignation grows.
And health workers moving Ebola patient, Amber Vinson, wearing full protective gears so how is it possible that one man was not in a hazmat suit? Let's go OUTFRONT.
Good evening. I'm Erin Burnett. OUTFRONT tonight, we have breaking news. CDC officials have just confirmed that Amber Vinson, the second Dallas nurse with Ebola may have had symptoms of the virus as early as last Friday. That is three days earlier than previously reported.
If this is true, she could have exposed many more passengers on the flight she took from Dallas to Cleveland on Friday, a trip home where she and her bridesmaids spent hours at a crowded bridal shop. Workers at the bridal shop today are now being monitored for symptoms.
Now Vinson did call the CDC to report a low-grade fever on her way home, on her trip which she was going to go back to Dallas on Monday. The CDC did not stop her from taking that trip.
Also at this hour, Nina Pham, the other Dallas nurse with Ebola is on her way to the hospital at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. Pham had been receiving treatment at Texas Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
That is the hospital that the CDC said now is not able to care for patients with Ebola. We have a lot to talk about tonight. We want to get first though to this breaking news. This is a major, major development.
Dr. Sanjay Gupta is on the ground in Atlanta and that is where Amber Vinson is in the fight of her life at Emory University Hospital. Sanjay, you just talked to a federal official about Vinson's case and what are you learning?
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we are hearing some of these same things trying to call into question the time line of when she in fact got sick. There is some question about whether she was sick even before she -- or had symptoms I should say, before she flew from Dallas to Cleveland.
But also even in Cleveland there was a lot made of this 99.5 temperature before she got on the plane from Cleveland to Dallas. The report was that she called the CDC and they said to go ahead with that.
What happens in these situations, they go back and look at the contact tracing. As part of that contract tracing, they also ask the contacts, how sick do you think Amber was? Tell me about how she was doing.
And that is what starting to call into some of these questions. Some of the contacts, we don't have more details on who the contacts are specifically are calling to question and raising the possibility that she may have had more symptoms than just this 99.5 temperature.
Keep in mind then, Erin, the way that this works typically is self-reporting. So Amber did the right thing in sounds like in calling the CDC and reporting this 99.5 temperature, but if there were more symptoms that she did not report.
Obviously that is something that people are going to want to know and they are going to need to know because it becomes a question then of how potentially infectious or contagious was she at any given time.
I don't think there is any suggestion still that the people on the plane rides were necessarily more at risk. But who was she having close contact with and how sick was she at that time -- Erin.
BURNETT: And Sanjay, you know, this does, though -- look, again, it throws into question everything we've heard about the timeline from the CDC. They are coming out now and being honest. Look, we have gotten new information and it is changing.
But still, this is a frightening thing that she could have had symptoms because as you've reported, the longer you are sick, the more infectious you get, the more dangerous your symptoms can be and the more Ebola is in your system. So now we are talking about possibly another few days.
GUPTA: No question. And you know, this really needs to be nailed down. If she was sick on Friday and even potentially getting worse over those three days, that changes the entire investigation a bit in terms of just exactly how -- how concerned her contacts should be about this.
But also, you know, what we heard from the CDC was this notion of controlled movement. It is a term that people are going to get to know. But what it basically means is if you've had contact with someone with Ebola, according to Dr. Frieden, if you had that contact with someone with Ebola, you should not get on a passenger commercial airline flight. A commercial airline flight should have been off the table. The
first flight should not have happened regardless, it sounds like, Erin, even if she had no symptoms at all because of the concern of possible symptoms.
That didn't happen in this case. She took two flights and now we are hearing she may have, in fact, been more symptomatic than we previously heard.
BURNETT: Pretty frightening and obviously a major, major development in the story. Sanjay will be with us in just a moment. But county health officials in Ohio are now in a race against time asking anyone who may have shopped at the bridal shop that Amber Vinson spent several hours at on Saturday, October 11th.
They are saying anyone who was there to contact health officials immediately. Our Susan Candiotti was there. And Susan, I know you were there today. You were talking to people in the store and talking to the owners. What did you find out?
SUSAN CANDIOTTI, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, in speaking with the bridal shop owner, Erin, she said that when Amber Vinson was in there with her bridal party, they were having a wonderful time as the bridesmaids were there for a fitting.
She said that she didn't notice anything unusual, no signs of sickness at all, but this seems to contradict what the CDC is saying. They are raising the possibility they said that she might have exhibited some signs or symptoms in connection with the bridal shop. Here is what we found.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: She bought it off the rack and took it home.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): A typical busy Saturday for bridal shop owner, Ana Yonker. Her shop crowded with customers including Amber Vinson, watching her bridesmaids being fitted for a May wedding, the youngest, only 10.
ANA YONKER, BRIDAL SHOP OWNER: She was probably here about three hours maybe and we measured her party, showed her color charts. Again, everything went well and I had no idea that anything was wrong with her.
CANDIOTTI: To Yonker, Vinson didn't look sick at all. At the bridal shop, it was just another day until news broke on Wednesday that her customer tested positive for Ebola after helping care for a victim who died in Dallas.
(on camera): What did you think when you heard about that?
YONKER: Actually, I was just a little surprised that it came this close to home. But yet, I feel like my staff was a little more concerned.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Vinson talked about being a nurse, but there was no mention of her work with an Ebola patient.
(on camera): Do you think she should have?
YONKER: I could see why she didn't, very intelligent lady. We had great conversation. Nice bridal party, all of her friends were nice. You wonder, how did you not think this through?
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Yonker called the Summit County Health Department right away. She said she were understanding, but didn't sound ready to give her the advice she needed. She was the one who suggested closing her store as a precaution.
YONKER: I said what kind of sign do I put on my door because I don't want to cause panic either, but how do I let my customers know I'm closing just until we get a little more information.
CANDIOTTI (on camera): And what did they say?
YONKER: They said, OK, sure. That would be a good idea.
CANDIOTTI (voice-over): Officials asked her and a co-worker to quarantine themselves and stay home, but that it was OK to come in this day to see a few customers and let in two health department workers.
YONKER: I feel like they should have instantly given us, your staff needs to go home, everybody under quarantine, just come up with something right away. Instead, they made us feel like we'll take your names down and go along with business as usual.
CANDIOTTI: A few hours later, Yonker says the health department called again, now promising to bring her a thermometer for taking her temperature twice a day for 21 days.
YONKER: I'm confused and if this is as serious as it is, why is this being handled in a non-serious way to me?
CANDIOTTI: Now the owner of the bridal shop told me just a short time ago that she hasn't heard anything from the CDC or the health department about the possibility that, in fact, there might have been some additional signs of sickness in connection with the bridal shop.
In fact, the bridal shop owner tells me she is still waiting to hear and get a visit from the health department to bring over the thermometer so she can start taking her temperature with it and they said, quote, "to discuss some things." Erin, maybe there is more to that. We'll see.
BURNETT: All right, Susan Candiotti, thank you very much. We'll try to get some answers. Now joining me on the phone now is Dr. Margo Erme, the Summit County Public Health medical director. Dr. Sanjay Gupta is also with us.
Dr. Erme, thank you so much for taking the time. Let me start by giving you a chance to respond. I know you probably just heard that the woman who runs the bridal shop saying she sort of felt this was being handled in a non-serious way, was told kind of go business as usual and told they would bring a thermometer and they didn't bring it. What is your reaction to that happening?
DR. MARGO ERME, SUMMIT COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH MEDICAL DIRECTOR (via telephone): First of all, we were in contact with the bridal shop owner as soon as we found out that the bridal shop was involved. And again, one of the things is when we first got the information, the information and the guidance we've gotten from the CDC did not indicate that the people at the bridal shop were at significant risk.
However, the information that has been reported all day is fluid and changing, so some of the people that were before considered not significant contacts have now been moved into a contact. So we have been in contact with the bridal shop owner several times. And it is one of those that when information does change, we have to change with it.
ERME: So we have been working with -- identifying the people who are customers there as well.
BURNETT: OK. I understand. So you are saying now that this information has come that she was symptomatic earlier that they have been upgraded and more significant. I understand what you are saying. Can you tell us what -- what this new information is? What happened at the bridal shop that has changed things so much?
ERME: Well, one of the things is that the Ohio Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control have actually adjusted what constitutes a contact. And because of those adjustments, people that did not fit in that category before have moved into that category.
BURNETT: Right. I know. Maybe I wasn't clear. What I was saying is what symptoms was she showing? What do we now know happened at the bridal shop to Amber Vinson that changed this, that all of a sudden the people who came in contact with her there are now significant contacts.
ERME: No. It is not the symptoms that she had at the bridal shop. What the CDC discovered through interviews is that she may not have been feeling well earlier than when we initially thought so on the 13th, and the symptoms are very nonspecific.
When we had gotten information, it was nothing that you could point your finger at and say, this is a particular disease. So it seems to be very nonspecific symptoms and part of their -- their recommendations comes on the evaluation they made of her in Dallas when she was at the hospital.
That kind of signified that maybe she had had illness longer than what she had when she presented. So it is a compilation of additional interviews.
ERME: It is the lab work. So they are having a very big abundance of caution to be able not to overlook people that might have been overlooked previously because they were in a different --
BURNETT: Different status. Let me bring in Sanjay. He has a question for you, Dr. Erme.
GUPTA: Doctor, this is Sanjay Gupta. Quick question, so what we are hearing is that even at the time that she have gotten on the plane from Cleveland to Dallas, she may have had more symptoms than a 99.5 temperature.
I want to know if you can confirm that and what the other symptoms are and also given that you are a public health medical director for your area, what do you think about the fact that this nurse, Amber Vinson, who had just been taking care of a patient with Ebola, flew to Cleveland, and if you had been asked, would you allow a patient to get on a commercial airline flight.
ERME: I think one of the things, you look at the guidance that we had before, look at what the cut-off for the temperature was and initially it was 101.5. They put it down to 100.4 and her temperature was even below that.
And we know that people can run a low -- a 99.5 and some people may actually not be far from normal. So I think that just looking at the compilation of a number of interviews with her that had a higher suspicion that maybe we ought to move backwards.
As we all know with people that everybody doesn't show the same set of symptoms or even the same intensity of symptoms. So while we may not have considered the nonspecific subtle symptoms in the past, I think in this case they are actually looking at that as a factor for increasing the pool of potential contacts.
BURNETT: All right, Dr. Erme, thank you very much from both of us. We appreciate your time. And just to clarify for our viewers, our understanding is that all of those who had been treating Thomas Eric Duncan had been told to not to go to work and to avoid public transit whether they had symptoms or not.
OUTFRONT next, as a hospital official admitted to multiple mistakes in handling Ebola cases, a nurse at Texas Presbyterian says the hospital did not protect its staff.
And the head of the CDC today grilled by Congress calls for his resignation are growing, does he have a handle on the crisis now.
And they are calling this guy, the "Clipboard man." He was feet away from Ebola patient, Amber Vinson, but he was the only one not wearing anything but his regular street clothes.
BURNETT: Breaking news, the second nurse diagnosed with Ebola may have been sick for days before it was reported. The CDC says Amber Vinson may have had symptoms of Ebola as early last Friday, four days before she went to the hospital.
That change in timeline means hundreds more could have been exposed to Ebola. On Friday, Vinson flew from Dallas to Cleveland. On Monday, she flew from Cleveland to Dallas. Both planes full of passengers.
Officials are now reportedly trying to contact everyone who was on those planes. And what is disturbing is that officials still don't know how the two infected nurses got Ebola in the first place, frightening when there are 74 other Dallas health care workers, who treated Thomas Eric Duncan.
The mayor of Dallas he says he expects more of them to contract Ebola. Tonight, another nurse is claiming the Texas hospital where this happened. Ed Lavandera is OUTFRONT.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has operated in Dallas for nearly 50 years. It is a fixture in the medical community, but inside of the hospital, it is a more dire scene.
The hospital has almost 900 beds and only 300 are filled. A CDC doctor inside of the hospital this week tells CNN, people are scared to go there. They are having a rough time. I hope they make it through this.
This comes as one of the hospital own nurses is now criticizing the way health care workers were prepared to treat Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan.
BRIANNA AGUIRRE, NURSE, TEXAS HEALTH PRESBYTERIAN: There was no special precautions other than what we know in the medical industry to be basic contact precautions and droplet precautions. There was no special gear. We were unprepared in the sense that we did not know what to do with his lab specimens. They were mishandled and that is what the lab technician told me and it was just a little chaotic scene.
LAVANDERA: Texas Health Presbyterian officials are pushing back on allegations they didn't properly protect the health care workers. The official say CDC guidelines followed and when updates were issued, the hospital says it made the necessary changes. But that hospital executive also offered an apology about the way it handled the first Ebola patient's diagnosis.
DR. DANIEL VARGA, TEXAS HEALTH RESOURCES: We made mistakes. We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola and we are deeply sorry.
LAVANDERA (on camera): U.S. News and World Report publishes a yearly ranking of hospitals across the country, Presby as it's often called here in Dallas ranks in the top 15 out of some 600 hospitals in Texas and in a patient satisfaction survey, 79 percent of the patients here said they would recommend this hospital to family and friends. That is 8 points higher than the national average.
(voice-over): There is still great concern for the other health care workers who treated Thomas Eric Duncan. The head of the CDC said at least 50 hospital workers may have been exposed to the deadly virus and nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Vinson, are now being treated at other hospitals.
DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: Since two individuals did become infected, others may. That makes it quite challenging to operate a hospital and we felt it would be more prudent to focus on caring for any patients who come in.
LAVANDERA: And, Erin, tonight city officials here in Dallas are saying they are preparing for the possibility of more health care workers being brought here to be treated for the Ebola infection.
And also the "Associated Press" reporting tonight that one of the top county health officials is being monitored for a possible infection as well. This official was in the room with Thomas Eric Duncan before he died at one point. So a top county health official also being monitored tonight as well here in Dallas -- Erin.
BURNETT: Ed Lavandera, thank you.
And now CNN aviation analyst, Mary Schiavo joins me. She is the former inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation along with Katie Roemer, a registered nurse and member of the union, National Nurses United.
Mary, the Frontier Airlines flight that Vinson boarded on Friday was cleaned at the end of the day, but it had flown -- there were two more flights on the plane before it was cleaned and then the flight on Monday that she took home. Are you concerned?
MARY SCHIAVO, CNN AVIATION ANALYST: Well, I am concerned. They have taken steps to take the pilots and the flight attendants off duty and it is important they be monitored. But the people cleaning the planes and the passengers on the planes, they had no way of knowing what was going on, particularly the plane cleaners, who would have encountered anything.
Last week the CDC said that the dried virus, if there were any bodily fluids and it was dry that can live for several hours. So people might not even know. So what's unfortunate is because we don't have a travel ban and the CDC doesn't have control of where people are going, we are stymieing an entire nation because we don't have control of the travel of potentially infected persons.
BURNETT: And Katie, you know, how concerning is this. Part of the issue is people are afraid. We've been talking to people on the flights don't want to come and talk on television because they don't want to be stigmatized. Maybe that nurse was in denial and didn't want to address the
situation. This is what humans do in these situations and this is what can happen. Are you concerned about the fact that she had been told not to get on public transportation and told to stay home and she went home?
KATIE ROEMER, REGISTERED NURSE: Look, the instructions for the nurses in this whole thing have not been handled correctly. These nurses were not given clear instructions when they tried to reach out and get the kind of communication that they were asking for as to what they should do in this situation.
So we can't say blaming the nurses again. In both of the cases of the nurses, the initial response was to blame the nurses and in reality, the nurses had done exactly what they were supposed to do in asking for direction and trying to get the proper equipment. It is a bigger issue.
BURNETT: And we should be clear that she did, on the second flight called the CDC before she got on a plane with a fever. They said to go ahead and get on this plane. Mary, which brings me to the questions of, you are saying there isn't even a federal regulation that requires someone to wipe a tray table when cleaning a plane?
SCHIAVO: That's right. There is an interesting gap. The Federal Aviation Regulations, which govern flight, they govern the safety of the flight and the security along with the TSA and some service but not cleaning. Cleaning, food cleanliness, the waste from the bathroom, they are governed by the locality of where they are and the kitchens, et cetera. And there are no federal aviation regulations about that so they look to CDC.
BURNETT: All right, thanks very much to both of you. And coming up on "AC360" later tonight, Anderson, will speak to Brianna Aguirre, she is the Dallas nurse, who says she is putting her job on the line charging Texas Presbyterian hospital left nurses unprepared to handle Ebola.
OUTFRONT next, the head of the CDC grilled by Congress about his agency has handled the Ebola crisis. So did he dodge key questions today?
And Ebola patient, Amber Vinson, on her way to an Atlanta hospital tonight, how could this man be allowed so close to her without a hazmat suit?
BURNETT: Breaking news: the newest Ebola patient in the United States, Amber Vinson, may have had symptoms she was ill as early as Friday, meaning many more people may have been exposed to the virus than previously thought. But despite three hours in the hot seat on Capitol Hill, testifying before Congress, the head of the CDC made no question of this information. Tom Frieden may face many questions, but there weren't nearly as many answers.
Tom Foreman is OUTFRONT.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Amid raging questions over travel, school closings, hospitals and the federal response to the Ebola outbreak, members of Congress expected answers from the CDC. What they got was this.
DR. TOM FRIEDEN, CDC DIRECTOR: I don't know the details. I don't know the details and we don't know --
FOREMAN: Time and again, CDC Director Tom Frieden dodged even basic questions like how did two hospital workers get the disease.
REP. JAN SCHAKOWSKY (D), ILLINOIS: I still don't feel like we have a good answer of why nurse one and nurse two contracted Ebola. Is it because there was a problem with not following the protocol or is there something wrong with the protocols?
REP. BILL JOHNSON (R), OHIO: And I think what the American people are wanting is some assurance that somebody does know the details.
FRIEDEN: The investigation is ongoing. We've identified some possible causes.
JOHNSON: So, we don't know.
FOREMAN: Another question: why did the CDC tell the second nurse she could board a commercial plane even with her temperature rising?
FRIEDEN: I have not reviewed exactly what was said. But she did contact our agency and she did board the plane.
REP. DIANA DEGETTE (D), COLORADO: And she said she was told to board the plane.
FRIEDEN: That would be correct.
DEGETTE: Now, your August 22nd protocols say, people who are being monitored should not travel by commercial conveyances. Don't they?
FRIEDEN: People who are in what's called controlled -- controlled movement should not board commercial airlines.
FOREMAN: Frieden insisted months ago that virtually all hospitals were ready to take such cases, but asked now about equipment --
REP. MICHAEL BURGESS (R), TEXAS: Are you going to be able to quickly deliver a stockpile of personal protective equipment like this?
FRIEDEN: Our goal has been to get hospitals ready. The specific type of personal protective equipment to be used is not simple and there is no single right answer.
FOREMAN: On the idea of banning travel from West Africa?
REP. CORY GARDNER (R), COLORADO: Somewhere between 2,000 and 3000 people a year are coming into this country without being screened from the affected areas.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We should not be allowing these folks in, period.
FOREMAN: Frieden said that would make it harder to track infected people who might try to come into the United States another way. But pressed on whether that was his medical opinion or political talking point, he clammed up again.
REP. STEVE SCALISE (R), LOUISIANA: Have you had conversations with the White House about a travel ban?
FRIEDEN: We've --
SCALISE: That's a yes or no question.
FRIEDEN: We would certainly consider anything that will reduce risk to Americans.
FOREMAN: Democrats and Republicans alike admit the Ebola problem is complicated. They say they don't want the public to panic. But on both sides of the aisle, and you could see it today, elected leaders are also clearly frustrated by what they see as a lack of answers and accountability from the CDC -- Erin.
BURNETT: All right. Tom Foreman, thank you very much.
And we are -- in just a few seconds, we are going to hear from the president of the United States. I'm monitoring that. We're going to go there live the minute he begins speaking. But I want to bring in right now as we get ready, Republican Congressman Cory Gardner.
You just saw him in Tom's piece among the congressmen questioning Frieden at the congressional hearing today.
What is your view happened? The breaking news tonight, we are hearing nurse number two may have been sick as early as Friday. Four days before, she went to the hospital, three days before, she called the CDC with the fever. That wasn't mentioned in the questioning today. Do you know why?
GARDNER: I don't know why. And, again, I think there were a lot of unanswered questions today and I think that clamming up of Dr. Frieden certainly didn't help.
BURNETT: And very quickly, what do you think about Tom Frieden? Should he stay in that job? GARDNER: I think there's a lot of questions that need to be
answered. We need Dr. Frieden to do his part to protect the American people. But if he can't answer questions, then there's going to be calls for his resignation. I think that's premature at this point, but he's got to start delivering on answers.
BURNETT: Oh, I think that's key that you say he's got to do his job because I think the most important obviously is we all to come together and try to solve this president. Here's the president of the United States.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I want to give the American people an update on what has happened today. Obviously, everybody remains deeply concerned about the Ebola situation. I've been working with my team to address a number of issues that have been raised both publicly, as well as at the state and local levels.
So, number one, obviously, our heartfelt concern goes out to the two nurses who have been infected. They courageously treated Mr. Duncan when he was in Dallas. It is typical of what nurses do, each and every day, caring for us. And one has now been transferred to NIH, national Institute of Health facilities and the other one has been transferred to Emory University. They are getting the best possible care. Our thoughts and prayers are with them and their families and we're continuing to monitor their condition.
Number two, the second nurse to be diagnosed as all of you are aware traveled from Dallas to Cleveland and back. As a consequence, it's very important for us to make sure that we are monitoring and tracking anyone who was in close proximity to this second nurse to make sure that their temperatures are being taken and we know that they are receiving the kind of attention that they need to ensure that there is not additional spread of the disease.
I spoke to Governor Kasich in Ohio today who is on top of it. We haven employed CDC personnel there to make sure that they are getting all of the support they need. And we will continue to work both with them as well as the airlines, getting the manifests and assuring that we are keeping track of anybody who was in close proximity to the second nurse.
Number three, we remain focused on the situation at Texas Presbyterian in Dallas. As I've said before, when we have tight protocols with respect to the treatment of patients, then our health care workers are safe. But because of these two incidents we know now that there may have been problems in terms of how protective gear was worn or removed or some of the additional treatment procedures may have impacted potential exposure. We don't know yet exactly what happened.
But in the meantime, we have a number of health care workers at Texas Presbyterian who did provide care to Mr. Duncan. And we are instituting a constant monitoring process with them, giving them the information that they need in order to keep themselves and their families as safe as possible, as the period in which they potentially could get the disease remains in place. And I also spoke to Governor Perry today about making sure that
Dallas and the state of Texas had the resources that it needed in order to respond effectively if additional workers at Texas Presbyterian are determined, in fact, to have been exposed and have contracted Ebola. And Governor Perry, as well as Mayor Rawlings in Dallas, obviously, have been extraordinarily cooperative working with CDC, working with Health and Human Services. They have legitimate concerns in terms of making sure that the federal government is serving the kind of resources they need in order to handle any eventuality there, to make sure the folks not just at Texas Presbyterian but potentially at other health facilities have the training and equipment they need. And so, we are working very closely with them over the course of the next several days and weeks in order to assure that they have exactly what they need to get the job done.
Throughout this process, I've been focused on making sure that we are dealing with this problem at the source. The most important thing in addition to treating and monitoring anybody who even has a hint of potential exposure here in this country, the most important thing that I can do for keeping the American people safe is for us to be able to deal with Ebola at the source, where you got a huge outbreak in West Africa. And the United States is obviously leading the way in terms of providing resources, equipment and mobilizing the world's community, so over the last several days I continue to call other world leaders to get them to up their pledges of equipment, of personnel, of logistics -- logistical capabilities to make sure that we are getting all workers on the ground there.
We've seen some progress in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. But we haven't seen enough. We've got more work to do.
And the good news is, is that increasingly when I talk to these world leaders, what you're seeing is a recognition that the sooner we control this outbreak at the source in West Africa, the less our people are going to be at risk. And I think more and more of them are stepping up, although it's, I think, taking a little longer than it should. And that's something that all of us should recognize.
One issue that I want to address, because I know it's been a topic consistently in the news, is the issue of a travel ban. I know that you've heard from some public health experts about this, but I want to make sure that everybody's clear about the issue. I don't have a philosophical objection necessarily to a travel ban, if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe.
The problem is, in all the discussions I've had thus far, with experts in the field, experts in infectious disease, is that a travel ban is less effective than the measures that we are currently instituting, that involve screening passengers who are coming from West Africa.
First of all, screening them before they get on the plane there, to see whether they're showing signs of the disease, and screening them again when they get here, taking their temperature, and now what the CDC is doing is gathering all their information, assuming that they're not showing any signs of illness, because if they are showing signs of illness, obviously we want to make sure they're directed to a well-equipped and well-prepared facility. But if they're not showing any signs, we still want to have their information -- where they live, where they're staying, multiple contact information -- that not only the federal government keeps, but that will also be forwarded to the state where they reside.
If we institute a travel ban instead of the protocols that we've put in place now, history shows that there's a likelihood of increased avoidance. People do not readily disclose their information. They may engage in something called 'broken travel", essentially breaking up their trips so they can hide the fact that they have been to one of these countries where there's a disease in place. And as a result, we may end up getting less information about who has the disease. They're less likely to get treated properly, screened properly, quarantined properly, and as a consequence, we could end up having more cases rather than less.
Now, I continue to push and ask our experts whether, in fact, we are doing what's adequate in order to protect the American people. If they come back to me and they say that there's some additional things we need to do, I assure you, we will do it. But it's important in these circumstances, for us to look at the history of how these infectious diseases are best dealt with. And it is currently the judgment of all those who have been involved that a flat-out travel ban is not the best way to go.
But we will continue to monitor this. I'm asking these questions, and if in fact, it turns out that I'm getting different answers, then I will share that with the American people and we will not hesitate to do what's necessary, in order to maximize the chances that we avoid an outbreak here in the United States.
Which brings me to my last point -- I understand that people are worried. This is a disease that is new to our shores, although it is something that has cropped up periodically in other countries. Because of the virulence of the disease and the way it's transmitted and the symptoms that occur, I understand that people are scared.
But what I want to emphasize once again, right now, we have one individual who came in with the disease. We have two nurses who have been diagnosed with the disease as a consequence of, in some fashion, being exposed during treatment.
And what remains true is that that is not an airborne disease. It is not easy to catch. You can only catch it by being in contact with the bodily fluids of an individual who not only has the disease, but also is showing symptoms of the disease. And so, it's important for all of us to keep perspective in terms of how we handle this.
We are taking this very seriously, at the highest levels, starting with me, and my entire team has been essentially deputized to work with Health and Human Services and CDC. And that includes, by the way, the Department of Defense, and our national security teams.
We understand why it's important for us to provide assurances to the public, that folks are taking this very seriously, and they are. And obviously, because of the two nurses getting sick, that has made people that much more concerned. So, all that's understood, but I do want everybody to understand, it remains a very difficult disease to catch, and if we continue to take the steps that we need to, then this will be contained.
And the main thing that everybody needs to focus on is that the risks involved remain relatively low, extremely low for ordinary folks. The biggest thing we need to do is make sure that health workers have more confidence, because they are on the front lines and we're entering into flu season, which means there are a lot of people who may be coming in with symptoms, and there may be false alarms and concerns. And so, we're going to spend a lot of time working with our public health workers to make sure that they feel safe and adequately protected.
But I want to assure the American people, we're taking this seriously. But this is something that's really hard to catch. And if we do what we needed to do, and we stay focused, then this is going to be something that is contained here.
The work that we have to do overseas is going to be a lot tougher because frankly they don't have a public health infrastructure. They're not well-organized. They're poor countries, and the epidemic is already raging there. So, that's going to take several months for us to be able to start seeing the kinds of progress that we need to see.
But in the meantime, I want everybody to know that everybody here's on the case. All right? Thank you very much, everybody.
You know, I will answer this one question about an Ebola czar. The truth is, is that up until this point, the individuals here have been running point and doing an outstanding job in dealing with what is a very complicated and fluid situation.
Those of you who don't know, Lisa Monaco who does a lot of my counterterrorism work, as well as national security work, has been working with our secretary of Health and Human Services and Tom Frieden at the CDC. It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person, not because the three of these folks have not been doing an outstanding job -- I should mention, Susan Rice, my national security adviser. It's not that they haven't been doing an outstanding job, working hard on this issue, but they also are responsible for a whole bunch of other stuff. So, Lisa is also dealing, as Susan is, with ISIL.
And we're going into flu season, which means, by the way, people should be looking to get their flu shots. We know that every year, tens of thousands of people potentially die of the flu and 100,000 or more go into the emergency room, hospitalized, because of the flu. So, that's something that Tom also is responsible for.
So, it may make sense for us to have one person, in part just so that after this initial surge of activity, we can have a more regular process, just to make sure that we're crossing all the T's and dotting all the I's going forward. OK?
If I appoint somebody, I'll let you know. All right?
Thank you so much, everybody. Thank you, guys. Appreciate you.
BURNETT: All right. An impromptu and extensive speech there, impromptu conversation by the president on Ebola. That was about 14 or 15 minutes. We anticipated it was sudden. It would be very short. It was. It was in-depth as you saw.
And a lot of breaking news in there. The president saying that he was going to go ahead and probably that it made sense to name one person to be in charge of the Ebola response in this country and response to all the calls, to name an Ebola czar, talking about a travel ban, saying he doesn't have a philosophical objection to something like that. But that so far, the case has not been made for a travel ban so he's not going to do it.
And talking about the situation in Dallas, saying that the 74 additional health care workers exposed there, that they had now a, quote-unquote, "constant monitoring process", although he didn't define that specifically.
Still, though, significant news -- the president intense, trying to made it very clear that he knew the details here, he knew about all of the fights, he knew the details in great specificity.
We're going to take a brief break and be back to talk about this breaking news with Sanjay Gupta.
BURNETT: Breaking news: the president of the United States speaking in an impromptu but extended way about Ebola just a couple of moments ago, speaking about the crisis.
Sanjay Gupta is back with me.
And, Sanjay, he said he doesn't have an objection to a travel ban, but he's not ready to go there quite yet, making a case for that, saying that they're going to be monitoring those nurses in Texas. He really tried to show he knew the details here about the flight Amber Vinson took, all of this was in-depth. But he also said, yes, he's going to go ahead with an Ebola czar and I know you have some thoughts on whether that's significant or not.
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: You know, it's a risk-reward sort of thing here, adding another layer of bureaucracy, obviously. That adds another complexity to the whole thing.
But keep in mind now, you know, I think the situation of Amber Vinson being in Dallas, being cared for in Dallas originally, a local health issue, but then getting on the plane to Cleveland, coming back to Dallas, now in the hospital right here behind me, you do get the sense there is much more than just local health issues at play here. There are many other issues that need to be coordinated. And whether that is an Ebola czar, if that is the term they're using, whatever it is, somebody who can oversee a lot of these moving parts I think is really important. And, you know, perhaps that's what he's going to do.
BURNETT: And in terms of your sense of what I said also about the travel ban. He said it doesn't make sense. People do broken travel ban. They hide where they've been so you can't tell where they're from. It raises the risk in the United States. It doesn't lower them.
Does that make sense to you?
GUPTA: Well, I think there is some sense to it. And you and I talked about it before. I will tell you that majority of the questions Dr. Frieden took today at the hearing, he is definitely against this. Dr. Fauci, Anthony Fauci, definitely against a travel ban. They say it will make it more difficult to trace people and that could worsen the problem even in West Africa.
BURNETT: All right, Sanjay, thank you very much.
And we'll be right back.
BURNETT: We now know who the man is, I'm going to show you this man called clipboard man, standing feet away from Ebola patient Amber Vinson without a hazmat suit. According to Phoenix Air, the man is a medical safety coordinator. They say the reason he is not in a hazmat suit is because he is supposed to be, quote, "the eyes and ears of the team." It was on purpose.
"AC360" starts now.