With Americans on high alert after a second nurse has been confirmed to have contracted Ebola — and flown on a commercial plane a day before she reported symptoms — lawmakers will be back in Washington for a hearing on the ongoing Ebola outbreak.
“Questions continue to emerge as this outbreak has continued, further heightening our concerns about the response and preparedness efforts both at home and abroad,” Rep. Tim Murphy (R-PA) chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations said in a statement this week in advance of the hearing.
“Just a few weeks ago there was an urgent need to quickly stop the spread of Ebola in Africa, but now we also need to assure Americans that we are able to stop the spread here at home. There is no room for error when it comes to Ebola,” he added.
The Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations will convene Thursday afternoon to hear testimony from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden and a number of witnesses on the Ebola outbreak.
In addition to Frieden, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci, the Assistant Commissioner of Counterterrorism Policy at the Food and Drug Administration Luciana Borio, Robin Robinson a Health and Human Services director in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, Acting Assistant Commissioner in the Office of Field Operations at Customs and Border Protection John Wagner, and the Senior Vice President at Texas Health Resources Daniel Varga will be testifying before the panel.
This week in a statement before the hearing Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) highlighted the lack of apparent preparedness and the expressed concern about the threat.
“Ebola has been on the world’s radar screen since March and yet the United States and the international community are still scrambling to stay ahead of and stop this outbreak. We remain gravely concerned about this ongoing threat and the committee will continue diligently investigating the response efforts and preparedness plans,” Upton said.
“The stakes could not be any higher, and as I have said before, we cannot afford to look back at this point in history and say we could have done more,” he added.
And the Ebola threat has been on the Committee’s radar in recent months. In September House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders sent a letter to HHS Secretary Sylvia Burwell requesting more information about the Ebola epidemic abroad and the United States’ preparedness at home.
A committee spokeswoman noted to Breitbart News that HHS and the CDC have been in close contact with the Committee about the outbreak but explained that there remain concerns about the administration’s level of preparedness to deal with Ebola in the U.S. The spokeswoman added that there are hopes that Thursday’s hearing will help clear some of those questions.
Congress is technically in recess until after the midterm elections. This is not the first time this year, however, Frieden has been called before Congress in the middle of a recess over the Ebola threat.
Frieden faced a grilling about the disease during the summer recess from a few lawmakers who made it back to the Capitol for the hearing. At the time, in early August, the disease had claimed more than 900 lives and was at arms length in West Africa.
At the time the CDC director assured “We can stop Ebola. We know how to do it. It will be a long and hard fight,” and noted that the U.S. would need to deal with the disease domestically at some point.
“Inevitably there will be travelers, American citizens and others, who go from these three countries or from Lagos, if it doesn’t get it under control, and are here with symptoms. Those symptoms might be Ebola or something else,” he added back in August. “So we’re having to deal with Ebola in the U.S. in a way we’ve never had to deal with it before.”
By this week, the disease has claimed more than 4,400 lives, largely in Africa, and has made it to the U.S.– carried by Liberian national Thomas Duncan — and has been transmitted to at least two people in the U.S.