President Obama lifted off from Atlanta’s airport Tuesday afternoon after a visit to the Centers for Disease Control.
Mr. Obama came to Atlanta to outline his plan to combat the Ebola crisis in West Africa.
The outbreak is believed to have killed more than 2,400 people, and the U.S. government is drawing on more than a half billion dollars in defense spending to fight the deadly virus.
Speaking at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the president said this is the largest international response in the history of the CDC.
GPB reporter Jeanne Bonner was the Hartsfield- Jackson Airport for the President’s arrival and departure. She joined “All Things Considered” host Rickey Bevington by phone to talk about the significance of President Obama’s visit.
Rickey Bevington (host, GPB’s "All Things Considered"): So, what is the significance of the President’s visit today in Atlanta?
Jeanne Bonner (reporter, GPB News): Well, certainly it continues to underscore the importance of Atlanta’s health community in the fight against Ebola. Officials said he came to get a briefing and to make some announcements, but in addition, to thank CDC employees for everything they are doing in the fight against Ebola.
Rickey Bevington: And in fact, he announced a plan today to respond to the Ebola crisis in West Africa. What did he outline?
Jeanne Bonner: There’s a couple of key things. One is that about 3,000 U.S. military personnel will be involved in establishing a joint-force command in Monrovia, the Liberian capital. And that they will be coordinating the response to the Ebola outbreak. They will be training healthcare workers and, in fact, they have a rather ambitious goal of training up to 500 new health workers a week. And they will also be building treatment units for Ebola in the areas that are affected.
Rickey Bevington: Jeanne, in this case, is President Obama laying the groundwork for anything beyond garnering public support for sending additional U.S. military personnel to West Africa?
Jeanne Bonner: Well, I certainly think that he feels the need to get a hands on perspective on it. We’ve heard from CDC personnel, including the director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, that the outbreak is taking a path that nearly no one could have predicted. That it’s far more serious than originally predicted and there’s even some concern that this strain could mutate. It has not, yet, but there is that concern. And certainly, America cannot be on the sidelines. America actually has to be leading the fight, as we’ve seen, in a number of ways-- the CDC and Emory University Healthcare. So, I feel, it certainly is a sense of President Obama appearing to be very invested in the Ebola crisis and how America is responding to it.
Rickey Bevington: The President met this morning with Dr. Kent Brantly in the White House. Dr. Brantly was the first American with the Ebola virus to be admitted to Atlanta’s Emory University Hospital during this outbreak. That happened at the start of August. It’s now mid-September. What has it taken this long for the President to make this visit to the CDC?
Jeanne Bonner: Well, I think there are a number of factors. I certainly think that the outbreak continues to get worse and worse, and you certainly can see in terms of even just the CDC’s involvement two weeks ago. The director, Dr. Thomas Frieden, gave an update and there were about 70 CDC personnel deployed on the ground. Today, that number is more than 100. And more CDC employees will be deploying this month. So I think that the disease just takes to that continue to be difficult to predict.