- Associated Press - Friday, October 17, 2014

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) - Republican Texas Gov. Rick Perry reversed course and joined other top conservatives in calling for an air travel ban from countries hardest-hit by Ebola, saying Friday that he’d pushed the idea with President Barack Obama and even suggested creating a “no-fly list” for Americans potentially exposed to the virus.

Texas has been the epicenter of Ebola in the United States, with a Liberian man who was the first confirmed case on American soil, Thomas Eric Duncan, dying at a Dallas hospital last week, and two health workers who treated him since falling ill. Both have been transferred to federal facilities for treatment and, amid criticism of Texas Health Presbyterian hospital, Perry also said he’d asked Obama to “fast-track” Ebola cases to better-equipped Centers for Disease Control facilities.

“We must admit, along the way we have seen ample opportunity for improvement from the CDC all the way to the hospital,” Perry said at a news conference.

Eyeing a possible 2016 presidential run, Perry had previously stopped short of joining leading national Republican voices in urging a travel ban from Ebola-stricken parts of West Africa. But he said Friday that “recent and ongoing events” had changed his mind.

The governor also said it was “indefensible” that one of the health care workers who had treated Duncan was allowed to fly from Ohio to Texas “with a low-grade fever” before being diagnosed with Ebola.

Perry said he asked Obama to consider creating “a no-fly list that the airlines then respect” of people in the U.S. who had been potentially exposed to Ebola.

“And that is an option that I asked him to consider to clearly send a message,” Perry said. “It defies common sense, from my perspective, that someone who has been in close proximity, or has treated these patients, that they would go out and expose other people possibly to this - that they would travel out of state, that they would go on a cruise.”

That was a reference to a Dallas health care worker who handled a lab specimen of Duncan‘s, then boarded a cruise ship and is now in self-quarantine.

Perry said Texas’ health commissioner can restrict people’s travel and movement amid risks of spreading infectious diseases, but that there aren’t legal consequences until someone actually violates such orders - prompting him to broach the subject with the president.

The governor had been leading an economic development mission in Europe but returned home early after word that the two Dallas nurses had Ebola. Perry also has created a special infectious diseases task force.

On Friday, that panel issued preliminary recommendations, including establishing special Ebola treatment centers around Texas, expanding virus-related training for health care workers and creating more labs equipped to test for Ebola than the single Austin facility currently doing so.

The task force also wants the Legislature, which doesn’t convene until January, to let the state health commissioner impose travel and freedom of movement restrictions on Texans with infectious diseases to limit exposure to the general public.

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