Toomey Calls for Travel Restrictions

Member Group : U.S. Senator Pat Toomey

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Senator Toomey Calls for Tighter Travel Restriction Regarding Ebola
Asks Secretary Burwell Why Ban Not Appropriate

Allentown, Pa. – U.S. Senator Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) today wrote to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell stating that he believes the U.S. should tighten travel restrictions from Ebola-affected regions to limit the incidental exposure of Americans to the disease.

In the letter to Secretary Burwell, Sen. Toomey also asks for clarification as to why a commercial travel ban would not be appropriate.

The text of Toomey’s letter is below:

October 16, 2014

The Honorable Sylvia Burwell
Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201

Dear Secretary Burwell:

I am writing to express concern with current efforts to contain the Ebola virus. I believe that we should tighten restrictions for travel to the United States from the affected regions to limit the risk of exposure of our citizens to this deadly disease.

Since the initial recognition of the outbreak of the Ebola virus in March 2014, the rapid and sustained nature of its spread has been the cause of great alarm, and the grave challenge it presents the world community has been clearly explained by numerous experts. Recently, World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Margaret Chan stated that this is the "most severe, acute health emergency seen in modern times."

The United States has a leadership role in assisting the affected countries’
containment of the Ebola virus. The continued provision of aid to this region of the world should be considered a priority until the crisis has subsided. That said, our paramount responsibility is to protect our own citizens from this deadly disease.

The transmission of the Ebola virus is more difficult than that of many other
contagious diseases. However, the infection of two healthcare professionals at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, the Dallas hospital that treated Ebola virus victim Thomas E. Duncan, shows the potential for its transmission under even the most controlled circumstances. Further commercial travel restrictions could mitigate the risk of additional contagion.

The Administration has expressed apprehension regarding implementing a commercial travel ban into the United States from the affected regions by non-U.S. citizens.

Please provide clarification to the following questions on the Administration’s
current response and why such a ban would not be appropriate.

* Several agencies share responsibility for protecting U.S. citizens from
public health threats. Which agency is currently in charge of efforts to prevent
further exposure of U.S. citizens to the Ebola virus?

* The WHO contends a commercial travel ban would be counterproductive to
ongoing efforts to provide assistance to West Africa. However, why would it not be more appropriate to transport needed supplies and personnel to and from the affected regions using agency chartered flights or military transport instead of commercial air travel?

* It has been noted that travel bans are difficult to enforce. How is the
threat of an individual evading a commercial travel ban in order to enter the United States more likely or more dangerous than an individual being disingenuous during an exit screening in order to enter the United States?

* The CDC and the Department of Homeland Security’ Customs & Border
Protection are implementing new layers of entry screening at five U.S. airports.
Given the relatively long asymptomatic incubation period of the disease, will
airport screenings be sufficient to protect against entry of infected individuals?

I appreciate your consideration and look forward to your timely response.


Pat Toomey
U.S. Senator

Western Pennsylvania Director
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey
100 Station Square Drive, Suite 225
Pittsburgh, PA 15219
412.803.3501 (p)