- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 16, 2014

President Obama said Thursday it “may make sense for us to have one person” coordinating the government’s response to the Ebola outbreak, indicating the administration may appoint a so-called czar to oversee all federal efforts.

Speaking in the Oval Office after a second straight day of meetings on the Ebola crisis, Mr. Obama also said he’s not opposed to the idea of travel bans from the African nations where the outbreak originated and where thousands have died from the virus.

But he maintained that a travel ban may do more harm than good.

“I do not have a philosophical objection to a travel ban if that is the thing that is going to keep the American people safe,” he said. “It is currently the judgment of all those who have been involved that a flat-out travel ban is not the best way to go.”

Administration officials, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, argue that if a ban is instituted, travelers who have visited affected countries — primarily Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia — may lie about where they’ve been in order to get into the U.S. That would complicate efforts to track the virus and determine who may have been infected, officials say.

Meanwhile, Mr. Obama said administration officials such as CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden, Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and Homeland Security Adviser Lisa Monaco have other responsibilities and may benefit from having one person in charge of the government’s entire response.

“It may make sense for us to have one person in part just so that after this initial surge of activity we can have a more regular process, just to make sure that we’re crossing all the t’s and dotting all the i’s going forward,” the president said.

Up to this point, the White House has maintained that a coordinated response, overseen by Ms. Monaco, is the right way to go.

One person, Thomas Eric Duncan, has died in the U.S. after contracting Ebola. Two Dallas health-care workers also have been diagnosed with Ebola after caring for Duncan in the hospital.

The administration is reviewing how those workers contracted the virus, the president said, adding that there “may have been problems” in how protective gear was worn in the hospital.

• Ben Wolfgang can be reached at bwolfgang@washingtontimes.com.

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