President Obama offered an update on the U.S.-led response to Ebola at a Feb. 11 event to recognize the progress to date and “to mark a transition in our fight against this disease.”
Joined by members of Congress, government leaders, volunteers, and other stakeholders, the president described a substantial drop in the number of cases in West Africa, as well as enhanced preparedness in the U.S.
President Obama highlighted the “world-class care” that the eight patients treated in the U.S. received, and noted that within months, the number of facilities equipped to treat Ebola jumped from three to 51. Of the 51 Ebola treatment centers designated as of Feb. 9, 47 are AAMC-member institutions.
The president also acknowledged that “America’s work is not done,” because, “as long as Ebola simmers anywhere in the world, we will have some Ebola fighting heroes who are coming back with the disease from time to time.”
He praised Congress for approving in December emergency supplemental funding to address Ebola, including support for hospitals, and stated that “we’re more prepared to protect Americans from infectious disease, but still have more work to do.” The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has not yet announced how it will distribute $576 million allocated to the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) to reinforce hospital preparedness for Ebola and other infectious diseases.
President Obama also thanked the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and scientists “who worked long days and late nights to develop a vaccine.”
He said that “the investments we make in NIH are not a nice-to-do, they are a must-do. We don’t appreciate basic science and all these folks in lab coats until there’s a real problem and we say, well, do we have a cure for that, or can we fix it?”
Noting the importance of a sustained commitment to such priorities, the president emphasized that “if we haven’t made those investments, if we’ve neglected them, then they won’t be there when we need them.”