Obama "cautiously more optimistic" on U.S. Ebola response

US President Barack Obama makes a statement after a meeting in the Oval Office of the White House October 22, 2014 in Washington, DC.


WASHINGTON -- After an initial response marked by missteps, President Obama said Wednesday that he is "cautiously more optimistic" about the government's handling of domestic Ebola cases.

"The public health infrastructure and systems that we are now putting in place ... should give the American people confidence that we're going to be in a position to deal with any additional cases of Ebola that might crop up without it turning into an outbreak," the president told journalists after a meeting in the Oval Office with Ron Klain, the government's newly-minted Ebola response coordinator.

The president said that "dozens" of people who were in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who became the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. last month, had been deemed Ebola-free.

He also said he was "cautiously optimistic" about the state of the two nurses infected while treating Duncan, who has since passed away.

"They seem to be doing better," he said.

The president said the government had increased the flow of resources to Dallas and Cleveland, where one of the nurses traveled after she contracted the virus, to prevent a repeat of the mistakes at the Texas facility where Duncan was treated and the two nurses were infected. He said the additional resources would help ensure that "people are prepared if and when a case like this comes up."

The Centers for Disease Control released updated protocols on Monday night to better protect health care workers dealing with Ebola patients. The new recommendations included the use of more protective covering and new guidelines for putting on and removing protective gear. The move came after strong criticism from health care workers who felt they were inadequately prepared to deal with the deadly virus.

Mr. Obama also discussed the decision, announced earlier Wednesday, to funnel all traffic to the U.S. from the three nations at the heart of the Ebola crisis in West Africa through five specific American airports.

"Each of those airports have systems in place so that all the passengers getting off those flights will be monitored," he said.

On the fight to stop the virus at its source in West Africa, the president commended a new $1 billion commitment from the international community to assist containment efforts.

He said Nigeria and Senegal, two nations adjacent to the hardest-hit areas, had been deemed Ebola free. But he also warned that the countries at the heart of the epidemic - Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia - continue to pose a problem.

We're "already starting to see some very modest signs of progress in Liberia," he said. "We're concerned about some spike in cases in Guinea."