Gov. Rick Perry said Friday that to help combat the spread of the Ebola virus, he has asked President Obama to ban air travel from West African countries fighting Ebola outbreaks, with exceptions allowed for aid workers.
Speaking at a news conference at the state Capitol, Perry also discussed a new task force's recommendations for fighting the virus in Texas, saying they were necessary to better respond in case of future infections.
“We must admit, along the way, we have seen ample opportunity for improvement, from the [federal Centers for Disease Control] all the way to the hospital,” he said.
The virus has infected two Texas health care workers and killed more than 4,000 people in West Africa. The first person in the U.S. diagnosed with Ebola, Thomas Eric Duncan, died Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.
Perry was joined at Friday's news conference by Brett Giroir, the Texas A&M Health Science Center's chief leading the task force on infectious disease, and Texas Health and Human Services Executive Commissioner Kyle Janek.
Giroir recommended that the state designate specific hospitals as Ebola treatment facilities and asked lawmakers to give state health officials the legal power to restrict travel for people who may have been exposed to infectious disease.
The governor joins other Texas Republicans, including U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and state Sen. Dan Patrick, the GOP nominee for lieutenant governor, who have called for travel bans. Previously, Perry had shied away from those restrictions, instead calling for more airport screenings for the virus.
On Wednesday, the CDC announced that one of the Texas nurses who became infected with Ebola had traveled in a commercial plane from Cleveland to Dallas. Perry said such travel by people with exposure to the virus was “indefensible."
One of the infected health care workers has been transferred to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta, and the other is now at a federal facility in Maryland.
Perry said he and Obama spoke on the phone Thursday about Texas’ response to the recent Ebola infections. The president told reporters Thursday that he opposed a travel ban but would reconsider if infectious disease experts recommended it.
“A flat-out travel ban is not the best way to go,” he said.
Perry returned to Texas from Europe on Thursday amid growing concern about the Ebola infectious, cutting short an international trip to discuss the state’s economic policy.
Also Friday, the University of Texas at Austin announced that a student had traveled on the same Cleveland-Dallas flight as the health care worker but was not exhibiting symptoms of the virus and believed to be safe. The university's statement said that health officials don't believe there is a current risk on campus.
Disclosure: The Texas A&M University System and the University of Texas at Austin are corporate sponsors of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.