July 30-31, 2014 -- Update on Ebola threat to Washington, DC

publication date: Jul 30, 2014
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July 30-31, 2014 -- Update 1x. This updates our report from July 28-29, 2014. No response from DHS and CDC on Ebola threat to U.S.-Africa Summit

A few hours after WMR reported the Ebola threat to the United States stemming from the arrival of hundreds of delegates, including presidents and their staffs, to next week's U.S.-Africa Summit in Washington, DC, USA Today and NBC News practically ran the same story with the same headlines. USA Today's headline: "Ebola only a plane ride away from USA: Ebola virus rapidly spreading in West Africa." NBC News: "Little Risk: Ebola's Just One Flight Away, But CDC Isn't Too Worried." The articles' similar content appears to have been planted by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. 

WMR contacted the Department of Homeland Security and the CDC. We asked them what special precautions are being taken to ensure that the hundreds of government officials, media, businessmen, and others arriving for the summit from the Ebola "hot zones" of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea, as well as countries where cases have been reported. The latter include Nigeria and Guinea-Bissau.

The DHS and CDC did not respond to our inquiry, which is, incidentally, why WMR normally does not waste time with government press offices.

Update 1x. As predicted in our report of July 28, the State Department diplomats are unwilling to put in place any special screening procedures to prevent someone with Ebola symptoms from arriving in the United States for the large number of events surrounding the U.S.-Africa Leader's Summit during the first week of August. During a July 28 press conference, State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said the State Department has adopted "a wait and see" attitude with regard to the spreading of Ebola and that the State Department see how things "shake out."

Psaki said the State Department is taking the lead of the Centers for Disease Control on how to respond to the crisis. The CDC failed to respond to WMR's inquiry about what measures were being taken to ensure that delegates and other guests arriving in Washington from countries affected by the Ebola epidemic are not carrying the virus.

Sierra Leone's top doctor dealing with the epidemic is the latest victim of Ebola. His death follows that of Liberia's top doctor. Two American medical workers in Liberia have contracted the almost-always fatal disease while a U.S. citizen, Patrick Sawyer, a consultant for the Liberian Finance Ministry in Monrovia, died from the disease in Lagos after flying to the populous Nigerian mega-city from Monrovia via Togo. Sawyer was due to return shortly to his native Coon Rapids, Minnesota. His widow said she fears Ebola could be transmitted to the United States.

Psaki said there are no plans to ban Americans from traveling to the affected West African countries, which at last count include Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria. Psaki also said there were no plans to restrict travel or otherwise screen travelers from West Africa to the various U.S.-Africa Summit events, including the first event, the Young
African Leadership Initiative Summit scheduled for the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington on August 4. Could the State Department's indifference to Ebola result in scenes like that to the left at the entrances of Washington's conference hotels next week? Based on the worst-case scenario now playing out in West Africa, the answer to that question is "yes."

One Ugandan-American active in Africa foreign policy issues told WMR that because of the risk associated with potential Ebola sufferers arriving from West Africa, he has canceled plans to participate in U.S.-Africa Summit events within the District of Columbia.

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