The government’s response to the Ebola virus became a new focal point in Colorado’s U.S. Senate race last week.
During an Oct. 15 debate in Denver, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger, Congressman Cory Gardner, sparred …
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During an Oct. 15 debate in Denver, Democratic Sen. Mark Udall and his Republican challenger, Congressman Cory Gardner, sparred over the effectiveness of the response to the virus by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Gardner called for an immediate travel ban to and from West Africa, where the current Ebola outbreak resides.
“Not tomorrow, but now,” Gardner said at the KUSA-TV-sponsored debate.
But Udall said that decision should come from doctors and other health professionals who know more about the virus than politicians.
“If they believe we ought to close our borders and restrict flights to and from West Africa, let’s listen to them,” Udall said. “But senators and congressmen shouldn’t make those decisions.”
Later that week, Udall called on the CDC and the Transportation Security Administration to restrict those who are being monitored for Ebola symptoms from boarding airplanes.
The Ebola virus outbreak has killed more than 5,000 people in West Africa and the World Health Organization recently said that about 1,00 new cases were appearing each week.
A man who was diagnosed with the virus in the U.S. died earlier this month. The two nurses who treated him have also contracted the disease, which is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids.
The Pentagon announced on Oct. 19 that it will build a rapid-response medical team that will provide assistance to civilian doctors and nurses who come in contact with the virus.
Gardner was critical of the government’s response to the virus, saying that not having a total travel ban to and from West Africa poses an “unacceptable danger.”
Gardner said, “We lack a strategy to deal with the Ebola virus,” and scolded the CDC for using funds to back other, less-important areas.
“Perhaps the CDC should stop spending money on things like Jazzercise, urban gardening and massage therapy and direct that money to where it’s appropriate to protecting the health of the American people,” he said.
The next day, Gardner asked CDC Director Tom Frieden why a travel ban has not been put in place. Gardner’s questions came during a congressional hearing where top Obama Administration officials provided testimony regarding the government’s response.
The CDC has said a travel ban would make it more difficult to track the virus because people coming to the U.S. may find other ways to get here, under the radar.
Udall said during the debate that he has full confidence in Frieden and supports the agency’s efforts. He also criticized Gardner’s lack of support for the CDC, claiming he had previously sought $770 million in cuts to the agency’s budget.
“We’re not going to beat Ebola by cutting back the CDC and our public health systems,” Udall said. “That’s the difference between the two of us.”
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