In Context: Gwen Moore on Ebola and a travel ban

A Moroccan health worker uses a thermometer to screen a passenger at the arrivals hall of the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca on Oct. 9, 2014. Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa. (AP photo)
A Moroccan health worker uses a thermometer to screen a passenger at the arrivals hall of the Mohammed V airport in Casablanca on Oct. 9, 2014. Ebola has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa. (AP photo)

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Oct. 14, 2014 found that two-thirds of Americans support travel restrictions on people entering the United States from countries stricken by Ebola,  the rare and deadly disease that has killed one man who came to the U.S. from Liberia and infected two nurses who treated him in Dallas.

The next day, many Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, called for restrictions. He said the federal government should bar people from entering the country if they have been in African nations affected by the virus in the past 30 days.

And U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the Obama administration should bar travel from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea — where Ebola has reached epidemic levels — until those countries have eradicated the threat, The Hill reported.

"Common sense dictates that we should impose a travel ban on commercial airline flights from nations afflicted by Ebola," Cruz told the Dallas Morning News. "There’s no reason to allow ongoing commercial air traffic out of those countries."

U.S. Rep. Gwen Moore, D-Wis., took a different tack, saying a travel ban to and from West Africa would "only exacerbate the epidemic."

Her comments drew national headlines and criticism from conservatives, including Milwaukee radio talk show host Charlie Sykes.

Given the public interest in the Ebola outbreak, we thought this would be a good time for In Context, our periodic feature that gives context to comments that get widespread attention.

Here is what Moore said in a prepared statement issued Oct. 15, 2014:

"Understandably, many Americans have grown increasingly worried about the recent confirmed cases of Ebola within our country’s borders. This response is certainly reasonable, and I share my constituents’ concern, but it is important to ensure that our alarm about this virus doesn’t lead to unreasonable and dangerous actions.

"Dr. Tom Frieden and the (federal) Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are working tirelessly to continue educating the public about transmission risks, safety protocols and the on-the-ground federal response in a calm, constructive fashion. Unfortunately, many of my congressional colleagues have let their anxiety about this crisis dictate a panicked and perilous tone during a time when we need a cautious yet vigilant discussion.

"Those like Senator Ron Johnson have suggested instituting a travel ban to and from West Africa. This idea may seem like a quick fix but in reality, isolating West Africa will only exacerbate the epidemic in the region. Aside from being impractical, this reactionary strategy will force Ebola patients underground, making it nearly impossible to track their movements, hinder the capacity for international healthcare workers to transport and administer critical aid, and erode the continent’s fragile economy.   

"If Senator Johnson and his colleagues are looking for a silver bullet to address Ebola, they will be sorely disappointed to learn that such a thing doesn’t exist. Those calling for travel bans need to remember that it is paramount for us as elected officials to inform, not inflame. We need to continue to support the CDC in their efforts to quell this threat in a sensible and reasoned manner."

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