AUSTIN, Texas — In a press conference at the Capitol Friday, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced several new changes to the state’s policies in response to the Ebola crisis. As Breitbart Texas reported earlier, Perry reversed his previous position regarding travel restrictions from the Ebola-stricken West African countries. Noting that “air travel is how this disease crosses borders, and it is certainly how it got to Texas,” Perry said that it is now the “the right policy” to ban air travel from these countries.
The Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response, which was formed by Perry earlier this month to respond to Ebola-related issues, announced their initial recommendations as well.
Perry noted that this was the first time that Ebola had been on American soil, and while mistakes were “understandable,” it was vital for public safety to address these mistakes and do everything they could to minimize the risks. Perry emphasized that Texans should remember that the odds of contracting Ebola were “exceptionally remote,” and that many of the steps the state was taking were “out of an abundance of caution.”
Dr. Brett Giroir, the executive Vice President and CEO of the Texas A&M Health Center and head of the Task Force, announced their recommendation to designate select hospitals around the state as “Regional Centers,” to be prepared to be Texas’ Ebola treatment centers and receive advanced training and specialized equipment. These centers would also have advanced training, staff, and equipment for the crucial functions of decontamination and waste management. The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston was among the hospitals that the Task Force is recommending be designated as an Ebola treatment center, according to Giroir. The Task Force will be requesting money from the Texas Health and Human Services Commission to fund these centers.
Giroir also recommended that the Texas Legislature empower the Texas Department of State Health Services (DHS) to legally restrict the travel of anyone exposed to Ebola, which is within the power of the legislature to do and does not require action by the federal government. Another task force recommendation was adding more testing labs around the state to speed up diagnoses.
Former state senator and DHS Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek also addressed the press conference. Janek acknowledged the work that DHS had been doing since the Ebola crisis began, including the vital work of “contact tracing,” or tracking every person who may have had any contact with a person who could have exposed them to Ebola. Epidemiologists working with DHS had been “on the ground in Dallas” after the first case was diagnosed and were trained to cast a very wide net in their searches. Janek called this contract tracing work one of the most critical ways to stop the spread of the deadly virus. Contact tracing and isolating anyone who has had a risk of exposure has “worked in Nigeria and will work here,” said Janek. As reported by Breitbart Texas, Nigeria successfully isolated the several dozen Ebola patients in their country, and have had no new cases since August.
In response to a reporter’s question, Perry elaborated on his position now supporting travel restrictions, saying that he supported both banning travel from Ebola-afflicted countries and putting anyone exposed to the virus on a “no-fly” list until their period of incubation had passed with a clear health check. It “defies common sense,” said Perry, that Vinson was allowed to fly after reporting a fever.
When asked if the state would declare a state of emergency, Perry said that the Task Force and other state officials were not at that point yet. “Our focus is on immediate care,” he said, but acknowledged that that option was on the table for future consideration. Perry closed the conference by noting the critical importance of treating all affected patients and keeping the people of Texas safe, without regard to costs yet. “This is not that time” to worry about the budget, said Perry.
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