I was working on the U.S. response to the Ebola outbreak. As you may remember, there was a lot of pressure to end all travel from West Africa to the United States.
The evidence suggested that curtailing travel would actually make the problem WORSE – by making it even more difficult to get health care providers into the region, not to mention much needed supplies, to end the epidemic more quickly.
If we had made decisions based on anxiety – or public opinion polls – we may have actually made Americans less safe. Thankfully, President Obama made clear to the team that we were going to make decisions based on the science. Period.
As a result, we did not end travel from West Africa. Instead, we came up with a solution to funnel passengers from the three West African countries into 5 specific airports, where we had public health officials available to screen each individual traveler, then connect them with public health officials who could monitor their health when they were in their local community here in the United States. This solution was tailored to the problem and allowed us to use our scarce resources most strategically, keep the public safe, and end the epidemic most effectively.
It took all of us – multiple teams across the government, across the private sector, and across countries around the globe – to meet this challenge. It was a memorable situation, and I’m so grateful and proud to have worked with the President on something so important.