Governor Nathan Deal said Monday the state's new Ebola Response Teamis not his response to recent political criticism about the issue.
Governor Deal announced the formation of the group in an email on Sunday night, a little more than an hour before he was set to take the stage in a debate with his two gubernatorial opponents. Democrat Jason Carter and Libertarian Andrew Hunt both attacked Governor Deal for his recent comment that water kills Ebola.
“No,” Deal said emphatically when a reporter asked whether the Governor had made the announcement to deflect negative press. “I think this is the appropriate thing to do.”
Deal said the criticism from Carter was unfair, but stopped short of commenting further.
"No, I don't think that's fair because... and this is not a forum in which we're [going to] answer political questions. This is a forum to tell you what we're doing,” the Governor said.
Deal made those comments at a news conference Monday afternoon where he released the names of the people he has tapped to serve on the Ebola Response Team.
Georgia Department of Health Commissioner, Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald, will lead the group’s efforts as chairwoman. The team will also include officials from Emory Healthcare, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and the Georgia Emergency Management Agency.
“They represent a very good cross-section of both the medical community as well as others who are going to be interested, or perhaps even involved, in dealing with a crisis, should it ever develop,” said Deal.
“We are certainly happy that Emory, who has successfully and safely treated three Ebola patients, is a resource for us in this state and we are intending to use their expertise to organize our hospital efforts,” Fitzgerald explained.
She emphasized that her office has been communicating with medical professionals all over the state. Hospitals’ main responsibility, she said, is to “identify and isolate” any patients they suspect could be infected with Ebola—not treat them.
"There will be treatment hospitals,” said Dr. Fitzgerald. “We think that that is the safest way to proceed and that is the route that we have chosen here in Georgia."
One of those sites includes Emory University Hospital, which has treated four Ebola patients. Dr. Fitzgerald would not release the names of the other three hospitals she says are currently Ebola-ready, but said they were part of a “regional network,” rather than being concentrated in Atlanta.
Governor Deal said the Georgia Ebola Response Team should meet sometime this week.