Virginia’s elected officials step up — or don’t — over Ebola concerns

By Kathryn Watson | Watchdog.org, Virginia Bureau

ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Confidence in the Obama administration to handle the threat of Ebola is so low that even members of Congress are trying to fill the gap.

A CBS News poll this month found only 37 percent of Americans believe the Centers for Disease Control is doing a good or excellent job, down from 60 percent in May. As public confidence wanes, some elected officials in Virginia — but not all — have suggested more be done to protect Americans.

President Obama said he isn’t considering a travel ban at this point, even though a Washington Post/NBC News poll shows 67 percent of Americans — including 60 percent of Democrats — support some form of a travel ban.

Here’s what your elected officials are saying and doing — or, what they’re not saying and not doing.

Sen. Tim Kaine

Sens. Tim Kaine, Sen. Mark Warner (D)

On Friday, Kaine and Warner sent a letter to Virginia’s Health and Human Services Secretary Bill Hazel and to the

Sen. Mark Warner

Sen. Mark Warner

Virginia Hospital and Healthcare Association to find out just how prepared the commonwealth’s hospitals really are for an outbreak in the commonwealth. They’re waiting on a response.

In September, Kaine wrote a resolution “recognizing the severe threat that the Ebola outbreak in West Africa poses to populations, governments and economies across Africa and, if not properly contained, to regions across the globe, and expressing support for those affected by the epidemic.”

Kaine hasn’t been vocal about his support of, or opposition to, a travel ban.

Warner, who is running for re-election against Republican challenger Ed Gillespie in November, said in an Oct. 13 debate it might be time to consider restrictions on some flights, “particularly with a nation like Liberia, where Ebola has spread so widely.”

Photo credit: Ballotpedia

Rep. Robert Hurt

Rep. Robert Wittman (R), First District

Wittman has urged the president for a travel ban of some sort from infected nations.

“The threat presented by Ebola is very real, and as a former public health official, I believe that coordinated, calculated action must be taken in order to ensure the safety of our citizens and to stop this deadly virus in its tracks,” Wittman posted to Facebook on Friday. “I have reminded the president of the urgency of this threat, and I urge him to enact travel restrictions from these West African nations so that we can better protect the health and safety of the American people.”

Photo credit: Scott Rigell's office

SAY NAY: Rep. Scott Rigell is feeling heat for his vote against defunding Obamacare.

Rep. Scott Rigell (R), Second District

Rigell has polled his constituents online about whether they’d like a travel ban, but hasn’t spoken much publicly about the disease and hasn’t said whether he personally supports any form of a travel ban.

Rep. Bobby Scott (D), Third District

Scott told WAVY.com the country’s response hasn’t been as strong as it needs to be. He hasn’t vocally supported or opposed a travel ban.

“If it gets out of hand in Africa, that is coming here. We have to be able to deal with it, and it is growing exponentially, doubling every couple of weeks. We have to deal with it in Africa, and I think a robust response, more than what we are doing now, is appropriate.”

Photo credit: GOP

Rep. Randy Forbes

Rep. Randy Forbes (R), Fourth District

Forbes is calling for a travel ban. Forbes has been particularly vocal about the threat Ebola poses on his Facebook and Twitter accounts.

“The US gov needs to immediately implement temporary travel restrictions to & from West African countries w/ Ebola outbreaks. RT if you agree,” the congressman’s Twitter account posted Oct. 16.

Photo credit: Ballotpedia

Rep. Robert Hurt

Rep. Robert Hurt (R), Fifth District

Hurt, who has opposed sending U.S. troops abroad, said the public health threat Ebola poses is another reason for the need for more border security.

“We can’t be all things to all people,” Hurt said.

Photo credit: Congress.gov

Rep. Bob Goodlatte

Bob Goodlatte (R), Sixth District

Goodlatte penned a letter to top U.S. health officials, including CDC Director Tom Frieden, inquiring into shortfalls in the country’s response to the disease in the United States. Specifically, Goodlatte asked why CDC protocols allow people who come into contact with Ebola patients to fly domestically, and why there are so few screening sites for international travelers.

Goodlatte also asked Obama to prohibit unnecessary travel from Ebola-stricken nations to the United States.

Rep. Jim Moran

Rep. Jim Moran

Jim Moran (D), Eighth District

Moran, who retires from Congress after this year, hasn’t spoken much publicly on the Ebola situation in the country.

Photo credit: Congress.gov

Rep. Morgan Griffith

Rep. Morgan Griffith (R), Ninth District

Griffith, given that he says so little is known about the disease, backs some form of a travel ban.

In last week’s congressional hearing on Ebola, Griffith asked Frieden if Ebola could be transmitted through dogs or other animals. Frieden said the feds don’t have evidence of that happening.

Rep. Frank Wolf (R), 10th District

Photo credit: Congress.gov

Rep. Frank Wolf

Wolf, who retires from Congress this year, publicly backed a travel ban after an Ebola scare in Loudoun County last week.

Photo credit: Congress.gov

Rep. Gerry Connolly

Gerry Connolly (D), 11th District

Connolly, leading one of the nation’s most heavily Democratic districts in northern Virginia, hasn’t said much publicly about any Ebola threats. He did tweet this after Obama appointed former political operative Ron Klain to head up U.S. efforts to combat the disease.

“Obama appoints Ron Klain as #EbolaCzar. Need action, coordination, and accountability for effective govt. response to #Ebola threat,” Connolly tweeted Friday.

— Kathryn Watson is an investigative reporter for Watchdog.org’s Virginia Bureau, and can be found on Twitter @kathrynw5.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and host of the Plain Talk Podcast which you can subscribe to by clicking here.

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