The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
October 27, 2014
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
**Please see below for a correction marked with an asterisk.
1:09 P.M. EDT
MR. EARNEST: Afternoon, everybody. Happy Monday. Let me do a quick announcement, and then we’ll get to questions. We discussed at some length on Friday the President’s meeting with the Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee, so I thought I would bring a little information about it just to let you know exactly what it is. (Laughter.) I learned a little bit myself as I looked into this.
The President’s Advanced Manufacturing Partnership Steering Committee is part of a council of 19 leading CEOs, labor leaders and university presidents that was assembled by the President with the recognition that industry, academia and government must work together to revitalize our manufacturing sector. The President’s view is that the manufacturing sector here in this country is central to the foundation of our economy, and the United States’ manufacturing sector is as competitive as it has been in decades — as measured both by investment and new jobs.
Since February of 2010, the United States manufacturing industry has added more than 700,000 jobs, which is the fastest pace of job growth in the manufacturing sector since the 1990s. And in the context of today’s meeting, there were three new substantial — three new executive actions that represent substantial investment by the federal government into research and technology that could boost the advanced manufacturing sector moving forward. And I think this reflects the President’s ongoing commitment to ensure that creating good, middle-class jobs is critical to the success of our economy because it reflects the President’s view that our economy is strong and dynamic when the middle class is strong and dynamic. And the strength of our middle class is predicated on good, middle-class jobs being available to American workers.
So this is a core component of that. And I know that we put out a factsheet about some of these announcements this morning, so I would commend that factsheet to you, and in your spare time do a little reading if you’re interested.
So with that, Mr. Kuhnhenn, do you want to get us started?
Q Thank you, Josh. I’ll leave to the factsheet to answer all our questions on manufacturing. So I’ll go directly to Ebola. We’ve had over the past couple of days a number of states — meaning New York and New Jersey — taking steps to quarantine returning travelers from the afflicted Ebola region. But more significantly, today, the Pentagon is applying those same kind of quarantine measures to troops, including General Darryl Williams, who has returned from the region to Italy. Does the White House support the Pentagon move? And does the fact that these various states and now the Pentagon are taking these steps suggest that the White House — that the administration has been — the steps that it has taken have been inadequate so far, given that these other entities are taking these more aggressive positions?
MR. EARNEST: Well, there’s a lot there, Jim, that I want to respond to, so let me try to unpack those things one at a time.
The first is, the Department of Defense has not issued a policy related to their workers that have spent time in West Africa. I know that there was this decision that was made by one commanding officer in the Department of Defense, but it does not reflect a department-wide policy that I understand is still under development. So I’d refer you to the Department of Defense for additional details on where that policy process stands and what consequences that could have for their personnel.
The second thing is, the announcement from New York and New Jersey that was followed by announcements from a couple of other states was specifically related to health care workers, not just returning — not just people who are returning from the region. And that distinction is important because it continues to be the view of this administration that stopping this Ebola outbreak in its tracks in West Africa is critically important to our national security and to the safety and health of American citizens.
As we’ve said many, many times, the likelihood of a widespread outbreak in this country of Ebola is exceedingly low, but the only way that we can entirely eliminate that risk is to stop this Ebola outbreak in its tracks in West Africa. And in order to succeed in stopping this outbreak in West Africa, we’re going to need doctors and nurses traveling to West Africa to treat Ebola patients.
Sadly — tragically, even — this Ebola outbreak in West Africa has occurred in countries that have little to no modern medical infrastructure. And that is the reason that we have seen this Ebola outbreak spiral so quickly in a way that has claimed so many lives.
So we want to make sure that whatever policies are put in place in this country to protect the American public do not serve as a disincentive to doctors and nurses from this country volunteering to travel to West Africa to treat Ebola patients. The first is that is a — it reflects — a commitment from a doctor or a nurse who traveled to West Africa reflects a generosity of spirit and a concern for common humanity that is worthy of praise. It also reflects a commitment to the ideal that stopping the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is the only way we can entirely eliminate the risk to the American people from the Ebola virus.
And what you will — and I guess this is the last thing I want to say about this, Jim — is you will hear from the CDC later today some additional information about guidelines that they believe should be in place as it relates to protocols for returning health care workers, or health care workers who are returning from West Africa.
So we’ll have additional guidelines from CDC; they’ll make that announcement later on this afternoon. But ultimately, it’s the responsibility — in fact, the authority is vested with state and local officials to make decisions about how best to protect their citizens.
Q Doesn’t that kind of create a patchwork of policies that can confuse the public, might even encourage people to game the system, lie about what they encountered when they’ve been in West Africa when you don’t have an overarching federal policy that rules?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I mean, we were talking about this a little bit earlier, Jim — anticipating your question. I mean, some of this is — in some ways, you can sort of take this up with James Madison, right? We have a federal system in this country in which states are given significant authority for governing their constituents. That is certainly true when it comes to public safety and public health.
At the same time, I think that you have seen a strong working relationship between states across the country and the federal government. What we believe is important — and I think is a view that is shared by governors and local officials across the country — is that these kinds of policies should be driven by science and the best scientific advice that is available. We have experts at the Centers for Disease Control and at HHS that have been dealing with Ebola outbreaks for decades now. And there is a body of medical science and research that should guide the implementation of these policies, and we’re going to work closely with states and localities to do exactly that.
I think the best and most recent piece of evidence that I can point to to illustrate this ongoing coordination is this morning’s announcement that Kaci Hickox, the nurse who has recently returned from West Africa, will be discharged from the hospital in New Jersey and will be traveling via private transportation to her home in Maine.
Q Let’s take the case of the Pentagon. You’ve talked about how the administration has been aware and has acted on the Ebola outbreak since March. And then, shouldn’t the policy have been in place when you decided to send troops to West Africa? Shouldn’t have how you were going to treat those returning troops been a matter of protocol then rather than what appears to being made up on the fly, as we go?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Jim, the commitment of Department of Defense resources was something that the President announced I believe just last month. And this is an ongoing effort by the Department of Defense to use their logistical expertise in West Africa to assist those, essentially, first responders who are actually treating Ebola patients.
We have been clear that the role of American military personnel in West Africa will not be to render medical assistance to the people of West Africa. Instead, it will be — the logistical expertise of the American military will be deployed to assist those doctors and nurses and other public health experts from around the world who are responding to this urgent situation. That was a commitment that was made by the President just about a month or so ago. And we are already seeing important work that’s being done in West Africa by our American military personnel.
And as needed, they will continue to put in place policies that they believe best protect the members of the military and the members of the public back here in the United States as well.
Q So is the White House concerned that the decision made by one commanding officer in this case of the Pentagon is sending a mixed message to people about the need for these kinds of policies?
MR. EARNEST: No. We believe that — I mean, it’s clear — and if it wasn’t clear before, it is now that I’ve helped make it clear — that the Department of Defense policy has not been settled and implemented yet, and they will ultimately — that will be a decision that’s driven by a variety of operational factors.
What we are — what this administration is working to do is to coordinate with state and local officials across the country to put in place the policies that scientific experts tell us are in the best interest of the American people. And that’s what we believe should guide the policy decisions that are made in this country.
Q I’m confused, though, because — I mean, we’ve known about this outbreak for some time. We’re going to hear, as you say, from the CDC later today, guidelines for protocols for returning medical workers, which we knew they were there — and the Pentagon, too, in the case of these people that are being held or sort of semi-quarantined in Italy. Why weren’t these kinds of decisions made earlier?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Roberta, I think what this reflects is a commitment by this administration to regularly review the guidelines that are in place to make sure that they reflect what’s necessary to protect the American people. And we should not lose sight of the fact that whatever guidelines and policies are put in place should not unduly burden those health care workers that, in fact, are operating in West Africa in very difficult situations. They are putting themselves at risk to try to meet the needs of other people. That is a pretty remarkable show of charity.
It also is an effort that is clearly in the best interest of the American people, because we know that the only way to entirely eliminate the risk from the Ebola virus to the American people is to stop this outbreak in West Africa. And there are American citizens who are using their own medical expertise in pursuit of that goal. These individuals are heroes. And their commitment to their common man and to their country is one that should be respected. And we believe that we can both show them the respect that they have earned while also ensuring that we have protocols in place to protect the American people.
Q Just one quick one on NHTSA. The Transportation Department is reviewing how NHTSA has handled a series of problems, like faulty airbags and defective ignition switches. Did the White House ask Secretary Foxx to conduct this investigation? Is the White House satisfied with NHTSA’s performance?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Roberta, I can tell you that NHTSA has been aggressive in responding to the situation related to defective airbags. And they have sought to move forward aggressively to protect the American people once they had data to indicate that action was needed.
There have been some issues that have cropped up around the announcement of the safety advisory last week, and the Department of Transportation review that has commenced is the right step to make sure that everyone is focused on learning from this situation and strengthening the response.
Q Did the White House ask for that review?
MR. EARNEST: This is something that is being led by the Department of Transportation, so if you have questions about their review I’d refer you to them.
Q Josh, the CDC guidelines that are coming out later on this afternoon, will the states be compelled to follow those guidelines? Or could they still chart their own course when it comes to quarantines?
MR. EARNEST: Yes, that’s a good question. State and local officials have broad authority to impose quarantine policies in their own states and localities. So the role for the CDC is to marshal scientific evidence. As I mentioned, the Centers for Disease Control has extensive experience in dealing with Ebola outbreaks. There is a body of medical science that’s been devoted to understanding how exactly the Ebola virus is transmitted. That science tells us that the likelihood of a widespread Ebola outbreak in the United States is exceedingly low; that the risk to the average American citizen is exceedingly low. I think even Dr. Fauci yesterday described it as “vanishingly” low.
Q But there is the potential for different states to have different protocols.
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are — there is the potential for governors and mayors in specific jurisdictions to exercise the authority that they have to impose quarantine policies. What the Obama administration —
Q Isn’t that kind of messy to have different states with different guidelines and different protocol?
MR. EARNEST: Well, as I mentioned to Jim, I guess you can take that up with James Madison. The fact of the matter, though, Jim, is that we have a strong working relationship from the administration to — a strong working relationship between the Obama administration and states and cities all across the country. And again, I think the best evidence of that is something that was announced just today, which is that by working with CDC, the state of New Jersey has determined that it’s appropriate to release her from the hospital where she has been in New Jersey so that she can travel home to Maine.
I think that reflects ongoing discussions between the Centers for Disease Control and public officials in New Jersey. And again, I think that reflects a decision that was made by New Jersey officials that was driven by the kinds of scientific expertise that resides at the Centers for Disease Control
Q And speaking of Kaci Hickox, what did the White House make — or what did the President make, if he had an opinion on it, of seeing her in that tent in that hospital where she was required to be for some time? And does the White House believe that her rights were violated in any way?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Jim, I have not spoken to the President about this, so I’m unaware of what his personal reaction is. I think that the reaction that many people across the country had, and I think it was shared by at least some people here in the White House, is that the service of somebody like Kaci Hickox is something that we should honor and respect. Again, she traveled to a West African country that is dealing with the outbreak of a contagious deadly disease.
She didn’t travel over there because she was getting a big paycheck. Presumably, she’s not going to be inducted into the nurse’s hall of fame for it. She did it out of concern for her common man, and she saw an opportunity to serve people that are clearly not as fortunate as we are to have a modern medical infrastructure.
And ultimately, because of her hard work, we are going to stop this disease in its tracks in West Africa, and that is the only way that we can eliminate the risk that this disease poses to the American people.
So her service and commitment to this cause is something that should be honored and respected, and I don’t think we do that by making her live in a tent for two or three days.
Q So the White House disagrees with that confinement, her being confined in that tent?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, Jim — I guess I’ve tried to answer this a couple of ways. The fact is it is — the state and local authorities have the authority to make these kinds of decisions about how to implement quarantine policies in ways —
Q So if states want to put people in tents, they can do that?
MR. EARNEST: Well, subject to the laws of these individual states. What we hope and what we think has been true in the vast majority of circumstances is that these kinds of policy decisions should be driven by science. And there is a body of scientific work out there that helps us understand exactly what kind of risk we face.
Again, as Dr. Fauci said yesterday on some — it might have even been on your network — where he indicated that the risk that was facing the average American is “vanishingly” low. And the only way that we can drive that risk to zero is to stop this outbreak in its tracks in West Africa. And the only way that we’re going to be able to stop this outbreak is if there are brave individuals like Kaci Hickox who are willing to put themselves at greater risk to try to stop this outbreak because it’s in the best interest of the American people. So again, her service and commitment is something that we should celebrate.
Q And folks are wondering where is Ron Klain in all of this. He’s supposed to be the Ebola response coordinator. It seems that you have a need for some coordinating here.
MR. EARNEST: Jim, I’ll say a couple things about that.
The first is, again, the state of New Jersey made a decision in consultation with the CDC earlier today to release Ms. Hickox from the hospital where she had been staying so that she could travel home to Maine. That was a policy decision that was made by New Jersey officials, exercising the authority that they have, in consultation with scientific experts at the CDC.
That is evidence that the ongoing coordination between the Obama administration and state and local officials continues successfully in this case.
Q And did the White House get a heads-up from New York and New Jersey before they —
MR. EARNEST: A heads-up on what?
Q On those quarantine policies that were announced. Was the White House or the Obama administration notified before New York and New Jersey went forward with these quarantine policies?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Jim, I can tell you that the White House and administration officials at the CDC and HHS and DHS, and other relevant agencies, have been in close coordination with state and local officials in these states for some time now, for weeks, months, even.
And I’m not going to be in a position to detail or draw a timeline for all of those conversations, but those intensive conversations continue as state and local officials exercise the authority that they have under their own state law to protect their citizens.
Again, what the science tells us is that a really important step for us to take in terms of protecting the American people is to stop this outbreak in West Africa.
Q And I apologize, I’m taking too much of my time here — and everybody else’s time — but it seems like you sort of danced away from an answer to that question. Was it a surprise to this administration when New York and New Jersey came out with their policies on these quarantines? Is that a yes or a no in terms of whether or not the administration was told in advance?
MR. EARNEST: What I’m telling you, Jim, is that I’m not going to be in a position to detail all of the phone calls.
Q You can’t say?
MR. EARNEST: But administration officials at a variety of agencies, including HHS, CDC and the White House have been in regular touch with state and local officials in New York and New Jersey elsewhere as they deal with this Ebola situation.
Q Josh, what do you suppose did drive the decision to impose these mandatory quarantines? If the federal guidelines or protocols that will be announced later today are driven by science, what drove the decision last week in New York and New Jersey?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I understand that Governor Cuomo and Governor Christie have conducted a number of sessions just like this one where they’ve been answering a variety of questions about the policies that they put in place, so I’d encourage you to ask them. It’s their authority that they were exercising, and they were the ones that we making the decision.
Q Do you suppose it was driven by something other than science? Was it driven by fear or irrational —
MR. EARNEST: Again, you’d have to ask them.
Q The federal government also has the power — the CDC, the President have the power to issue mandatory quarantines, to restrict people from traveling over state borders or imposing other kinds of public health rules and regulations. Will the announcements that the CDC will be announcing today, will they be mandatory guidelines, or will they be merely advisory?
MR. EARNEST: We’ll wait until those announcements are made and you can ask them.
Q Thanks. A while ago, you mentioned some of the aid workers that are going overseas to West Africa, and no one is going to argue with you about their courage and dedication in doing so. But could this be overcome, could it be contained in West Africa without Americans going there?
MR. EARNEST: That’s a good question. There is probably somebody that has some more public health expertise than I do to better assess that question.
Q Well, I mean, how vital — can you quantify how vital their assistance is?
MR. EARNEST: Look, I think some of this goes back to some of the discussions that we’ve had over the course of the summer about the indispensable role that the United States of America plays in the world; that we have the kinds of resources and infrastructure and expertise and values that guide us to play a leading role in difficult situations like this one.
Those are the kinds of values and the commitment that guided the President to make a commitment of Department of Defense resources to deal with the situation in West Africa, and I suspect it’s those kinds of values that are driving medical workers in this country to place themselves at some risk, to volunteer their time and travel to West Africa to serve those who are less fortunate.
And again, I think that is a commitment and a reflection of the kinds of values that that is worthy of our respect.
Q And absent a Halloween séance to take it up with James Madison — (laughter) — you’re saying there’s nothing the federal government can do to compel states at this point to not —
MR. EARNEST: I’m not rendering a legal analysis, I’m just observing what I think is a basic fact, right, which is that states have the —
Q The White House understands what power it has in this situation?
MR. EARNEST: Yes.
Q And what is that power?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I would encourage you to consult a legal expert here. The role that this government is playing is one that we have played for some time in terms of this response, which is making sure that we are marshaling the best scientific evidence and expertise that is available, and working closely with state and local officials to put in place policies that protect the American people. That is essentially the bottom line when it comes to this policymaking process, protecting the American people.
We need to understand as we’re putting in place those policies that the only way that we can entirely eliminate the risk from the Ebola virus to the American people is to stop this outbreak at the source. And it’s why, as we’re putting in place these policies, we should be mindful of not placing undue burdens, or in some cases even outright disrespecting health care workers who are making a commitment to go and serve those who are less fortunate in West Africa to try to stop this outbreak at the source.
Q Finally, very quickly, did you over the weekend — did the White House speak directly with Governors Cuomo or Christie to get them to reverse this decision?
MR. EARNEST: Again, I think this is similar to Mr. Acosta’s question.
Q I’m not asking about the whole totality of the conversations, I’m asking did this one particular conversation take place.
MR. EARNEST: And again, I’m not going to detail individual conversations, but suffice it to say, individuals at the White House, CDC, HHS and other relevant agencies have been in touch with officials in New York and New Jersey, and we have been for some time.
Q Josh, putting aside the governors for a second, where is the White House itself in terms of policymaking, in terms of a 21-day federal quarantine? Because we were told I think by Dr. Fauci on the record on Friday that it was at least being considered by the White House. Is that still being considered, or is that off the table, a federal quarantine? Again, putting aside the governors, is that possible or is that off the table?
MR. EARNEST: Well, what the President has indicated will guide him in all of these policy decisions is protecting the American people. And the President continues to be open-minded about suggestions that people may have about the best way to protect the American people. Those sorts of decisions are going to continue to be driven by science and by a priority that reflects the need to make sure that we’re not placing an undue burden on those health care workers that have volunteered their time to go and try to stop this outbreak at the source.
Q That’s what I’m trying to get at. Since you’ve said several times you’re being driven by the science and that — you seem to suggest that the science believes a 21-day quarantine might not make sense, why would the President still be considering it if he’s driven by the science? Or is it still evolving?
MR. EARNEST: I think this is — no, I don’t think it’s evolving. What is evolving is the situation on the ground in West Africa. That’s something that we’re closely monitoring, and we made a significant commitment of resources to try to stop the spread of this terrible disease.
I think this is analogous to the question that was asked of the President recently about a travel ban — that it is the view of this administration that a travel ban is not in the best interest of the American people at this point. If circumstances change, we’ll consider it because it’s not something that he’s philosophically opposed to.
I think an answer about a quarantine would be along the same lines, which is to say it’s something that we do not believe is necessary right now, but it’s not something we’re necessarily philosophically opposed to and something that we’ll keep an open mind about moving forward.
Q Back to the Pentagon. Before, you said that there was one commanding officer in the Army who’s undergoing quarantine, but we’re told it’s broader than that in terms of the recommendation that late last week the Joint Chiefs recommended formally to Defense Secretary Hagel that all U.S. troops — not just this one commanding officer — who are in the hot zone should when they come back have a 21-day quarantine. And I think you were asked that by Jim and I didn’t hear an answer. Does the White House agree with the Joint Chiefs?
MR. EARNEST: Ultimately, it will be the responsibility of the Secretary of Defense to put in place this policy. And so because that policy decision has not been rendered, I’m not going to get ahead of it from here.
Q So the White House is not going to be involved? I mean, we’ve been through this with Keystone and other decisions; the State Department is handling that. I get the Pentagon is ultimately going to announce it, but you’re saying the White House is not involved in talking to Secretary Hagel?
MR. EARNEST: No, I think what I said was that the Secretary of Defense will announce this decision. He ultimately will be the one that will drive this process as he’s making decisions about the policy that should be put in place to protect his troops. I wouldn’t rule out any coordination with the White House on it, though.
Q Sure, okay. So then my question is, what is the — I still haven’t heard — what is the President’s view about whether returning troops should be in a 21-day quarantine?
MR. EARNEST: Again, we will let the Department of Defense make an announcement about what they think is the best manner moving forward.
Q But how can the Commander-in-Chief send U.S. troops basically into the hot zone without a policy on when they come home whether or not they’re in quarantine? How could that have not been decided before?
MR. EARNEST: Because what we’re seeing here, Ed, is we are seeing this administration put in place the policies that we believe are necessary to protect the American people and to protect the American troops. And we’re going to let science drive that process, and as soon as we have a policy to announce on this we’ll let you know.
Q But if you watched “60 Minutes” last night, you heard the nurses who first treated Mr. Duncan saying that despite all the talk from the CDC about how procedures were in place, protocols were in place, that they were not followed in the initial hours and these nurses were dealing with a horrific situation. I’m trying to understand — we heard from the beginning that troops were going in and they were going to help — and you mentioned before, heroes — and they’re doing heroic work. But how could those heroes not have a plan in place before and during that heroic work? Don’t you understand? It seems like we’re still waiting, we’re still studying this, we’re still trying to figure it out. These troops are in the hot zone now.
MR. EARNEST: Well, let’s be clear about one aspect of this. There are a couple things about what our troops are doing in West Africa. The vast majority of them are actually not in countries that are affected by Ebola. There is an air bridge that’s being constructed in Senegal, which is a neighboring country, to try to assist the logistical effort to get supplies and resources and personnel into the affected areas where they can do their important work.
Q They’re also building health facilities.
MR. EARNEST: Some of them are in these countries where they’re building health facilities. None of the — no Department of Defense personnel is responsible for actually medically treating patients. So it’s important for people to understand — and again, Dr. Fauci talked about this a little bit yesterday too — that it’s important for us to assess risk in a detailed way. And clearly, the risk associated with being in a neighboring country is different than the risk that’s associated with being responsible for directly treating patients.
Q In other words, you don’t know the risk yet, and you’re waiting to try to —
MR. EARNEST: No, I think we do know the risk. What we know is that there’s a different amount of risk associated with being in a neighboring country and spending several weeks at a time in the bush treating patients with Ebola firsthand.
Q So they’re at a lower risk is what you would theorize.
MR. EARNEST: I’m not a medical expert, but I think common sense does indicate that being in a neighboring country would indicate that you have lower risk than those who are treating Ebola patients firsthand.
Q So it sounds as if, at least based on what the White House knows so far, its recommendations in coordination with the Pentagon would be not to go down this road on a 21-day quarantine.
MR. EARNEST: Well, I’m not going to get into what sort of advice is being shared between the White House and the Secretary of Defense. But again, we do want this process to be driven by science, and science would mandate close examination of the risk that’s associated with all these different activities.
Q Jim asked this before and I wanted to give you another chance. Do you believe that there were legitimate legal issues at stake in Kaci Hickox’s circumstance, and that that was something the administration, in coordination with the governors, want to avoid? Litigious — I mean, an outbreak of litigation over someone being quarantined who believes they have rights that are being violated in the here and now?
MR. EARNEST: What’s the question?
Q Do you believe — is that something the administration is trying to prevent, as it coordinates with governors, what to do with people returning from the hot zone? Because she got a lawyer. She was going to file a lawsuit saying, look, you can’t keep me here; this is a violation of some basic rights. And I’m asking, is that something in the entire process that you’re dealing with this, as this story has many components, you’re trying to minimize?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don’t think that — I think she was expressing her concern about a state-implemented policy. So I’m not sure that she or her lawyer was considering action against the federal government. Maybe I’m wrong about that.
Q I’m not suggesting they were either. But all of this is being absorbed by a public that’s trying to understand what’s actually going on — what’s their risk, what are the procedures, how should the elected leaders in their states proceed. And I’m just wondering, as you talk to the governors and try to work through all these things, Ron or someone else here might say, look, we don’t want lawsuits cropping up all over the country about people who are in a tent at an airport because their rights are being violated, when we’re trying to talk about public and other aspects of this contagion.
MR. EARNEST: Well, our top priority here has been the protection of the American public, and that is what’s driving these discussions. What we believe should be driving the policies is the body of scientific work that indicates what sort of risk individuals face. And again, in this case, the American people should understand that the risk that they face from the Ebola disease based on the likelihood of a widespread outbreak in the United States is exceedingly low. That’s very unlikely to occur. And we know that based on the science surrounding how Ebola is spread and based on the modern medical infrastructure that we have here in this country.
And we believe — and we’re going to continue to work with state and local officials as they implement these policies — that these policies should be driven by science.
Q Is it fair to say that the White House take over the decision by Governors Cuomo and Christie was they acted rationally and they unintentionally temporarily stigmatized this health care worker?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don’t know if that was the effect. But we certainly believe that any policies that are in place should be driven by science and should reflect the significant commitment — in fact, heroism — of some of these individuals who are volunteering their time to operate in a very dangerous environment, both to serve their fellow man but also to serve the American people.
Q And their decision was not consistent with that?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again — and I think I did say this pretty clearly to Jim’s question — that, again, somebody like Kaci Hickox, who is making a commitment to volunteer her time and travel to West Africa and work intensively and closely with highly contagious Ebola patients is service that is deserving of praise and respect. And having her sit in a tent for two or three days doesn’t exactly do that.
Go ahead, Jon.
Q Josh, let me ask — and Jim asked this and I didn’t hear an answer from you on Kaci Hickox’s case. She says that her rights were violated; she was locked in that tent against her will. Do you agree with her that her rights were violated when that was done?
MR. EARNEST: It’s hard for me to render a judgment on that, Jon. I’m not steeped in New Jersey quarantine law. What I do know, however —
Q Isn’t this a human rights issue? This goes beyond Jersey law.
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think I’ve been pretty clear about the praise and respect that I think she’s entitled to.
Q Okay, let come at this from a different perspective. You mentioned that U.S. military personnel are not directly treating Ebola — those suffering from Ebola in Africa — that the bulk of them are in a neighboring country, not even in the countries that are affected here. If the major threat here is what’s happening in those countries in West Africa, why not — the United States military has some of the best medical personnel in the world. Why are we not more directly engaged in getting control of this disease at ground zero, where it’s happening?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Jon, what we feel like right now is — what the President has concluded is that the best way to leverage the expertise and resources of the American people in this instance is to offer up logistical support from the Department of Defense, and that we have seen a significant response from the international community, both foreign governments and non-government organizations, dedicating resources and personnel to trying to stop the outbreak in West Africa. And —
Q But you don’t disagree there’s nowhere near enough medical personnel in those countries to help the people that are affected.
MR. EARNEST: There is more that is needed. I can tell you that the commitment of the American military to this effort has galvanized the international community to ramp up the response. But there’s no doubt that more is needed.
Q But what kind of a message does it send if we say that our personnel will not be allowed to treat those that are actually suffering from the disease?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think what it says is it says that the best way that the Department of Defense can help is by offering their logistical expertise to speed the transfer of supplies and equipment and personnel into the region. And I think it is certainly fair to say that there are a large number of American doctors and nurses who are volunteering their time to trying to confront this outbreak, to stop this outbreak, both because they believe that it reflects a commitment to their common man to try to meet those basic medical needs of those who are less fortunate. It also happens to reflect what science tells us is in the best interest of the American people: Stopping this Ebola outbreak at its source is the only way that we can completely eliminate the risk from the Ebola virus to the American people.
Q Okay, quickly, entirely different subject. We are eight days out from midterm elections that could be highly consequential for this President and for his party. Why is he here without any public schedule at the White House? Why did he spend the entire weekend completely outside of public view? How come he is not out campaigning with and for Democratic candidates in these races?
MR. EARNEST: Those who are interested in seeing the President campaigning will have ample opportunity to do so over the course of this week.
Q Josh, you know what I’m saying though.
MR. EARNEST: I do.
Q He has not been out on the campaign trail. Not a single Senate candidate yet.
MR. EARNEST: I can tell you that the President is looking forward to his trip to Wisconsin tomorrow. The President will be traveling to Maine in support of Democrats there on Thursday. He’ll be spending some time in Rhode Island on Friday. And then he’s going to ramp up even further his activities over the course of this weekend and doing two stops on Saturday and two stops on Sunday.
So I think that reflects a commitment by this President to supporting Democrats on the ballot. Did somebody ask where?
MR. EARNEST: There are so many stops that I have to look up exactly where the President is traveling. (Laughter.) Where are they? So we’ve got the President traveling to Milwaukee, as I mentioned, on Tuesday. Traveling to Portland, Maine on Thursday. The President will be in Rhode Island on Friday. Then he’s going to travel to Michigan on Saturday. And then he’s going to travel to Philadelphia and I believe Connecticut on Sunday.
So again, a variety of stop where the President will be actively campaigning in support of Democratic candidates.
Q You’re not going to stand there and tell me the President has been actively campaigning in these midterm elections, are you?
MR. EARNEST: I think any examination of the President’s schedule over the course of the next eight days in advance of the midterm election would indicate a serious commitment by this President to supporting Democratic candidates on the ballot.
Q How many Democratic Senate candidates has he campaigned with in this midterm election?
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are a number of Democratic Senators with whom the President has appeared. So, certainly, he’s looking forward to his event with Mr. Peters in Michigan on Saturday. The President has appeared in public — for example, I know that he traveled with Senator Franken, where they were discussing some issues that are important to middle-class voters in Minnesota. I don’t think there were any campaign events that were associated with that specific trip.
But what you’ve seen the President do is dedicate his time to doing what he can to support Democratic candidates. And he’s spent a lot of time raising money for them, and that reflects I think a significant commitment of this President’s time and energy to supporting Democratic candidates.
Q You don’t agree that the President has been considered politically toxic to many of those Democrats running in most competitive Senate races?
MR. EARNEST: It won’t surprise you to hear that I do not agree with that assessment. (Laughter.) Stop the presses.
Q Josh, you seem to be going up to the line but not yet criticizing directly the actions by the New York and New Jersey governors. When state policies differ from the CDC’s science-based policies, and you’re alluding to the fact that it might create a disincentive for health care workers, does the administration believe it’s a bad idea to go beyond the CDC’s science-based policies? Is it a bad idea?
MR. EARNEST: Well, what we believe, Jared, is that science should drive these decisions and science should drive how these policies are implemented.
Q Does the White House characterize when the policies are driven or go beyond what the CDC recommends, that that’s a bad idea?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think that is — it’s difficult to sort of encounter that specific hypothetical.
Q It’s not a hypothetical. These are actual policies that have been put in place.
MR. EARNEST: Which policies?
Q The ones in New York and New Jersey.
MR. EARNEST: Okay. Well there’s two, is there one state you’d like to choose?
Q Let’s go with New Jersey’s policies. (Laughter.)
MR. EARNEST: (Phone rings.) It’s like a game show all of a sudden.
Q Three-hundred dollars.
MR. EARNEST: What would you like behind — what’s behind door number one? (Laughter.)
What’s your question, Jared? (Laughter.)
Q Are the policies — (phone rings) — I’m sorry, somebody is not going to get that. Are the state policies in New Jersey, and just New Jersey for the sake of this — because I don’t think federalism limits your criticism — do the state policies in New Jersey hinder health care workers, and does this administration view them as a bad idea?
MR. EARNEST: Jared, what I can tell you is that the administration, from the CDC and HHS to even up here at the White House, has been in close touch with New Jersey officials as they implement the policies that they believe are in the best interest of the people of New Jersey.
This administration believes that policies that reflect the scientific expertise of medical experts who have been tracking this disease for four decades now should guide the implementation of those policies. And we’re going to continue to work with officials in New York and New Jersey and states all across the country to make sure that those policies do reflect the science. And that will be an ongoing process, as I guess Ed noted.
There has been, on occasion, the need for the federal government to strengthen the guidance that we’re putting in place based on changing situations on the ground in West Africa, based on updated scientific protocols.
So we’re certainly open to working closely with state officials to tailor the kind of response that’s necessary to protect individuals in their states. All of that is mindful of the fact that what science tells us is that the only way to eliminate risk from the Ebola virus is to stop this outbreak at the source.
Q Since the CDC’s policies are not superseding state policies at this point, and since Ron Klain’s role has been Ebola Response Coordinator, can you tell me what areas are under his purview? Is it the federal response only? Is it the federal response and the state response? Is it the federal response that includes the military component, like what we’ve seen in Italy? Or is it to be determined?
MR. EARNEST: Jared, we’ve tried a couple of times I think to describe what Mr. Klain’s role is here at the White House and in the federal government, and he is responsible for coordinating the whole-of-government approach that the President has suggested is necessary to —
Q Whole-of-federal government approach?
MR. EARNEST: Yes. Yes.
Q Josh, a couple of questions on a couple different subjects. I want to go back to the issue of the President and the midterms. Michelle Nunn, the President went on (inaudible) in Atlanta talking about how we — if we go to the polls — meaning how young people, blacks and Latinos, they could keep the Senate basically in Democratic hands. So Michelle Nunn apparently has a three-point lead, basically tied with a three-point lead. What does this White House feel about this? Do you feel that the President made an impact on some of those voters to help, possibly see a win?
MR. EARNEST: Well, April, let me just say as a general matter that the President is very interested in supporting Democratic candidates on the ballot who are interested in promoting policies that benefit middle-class families. That’s what’s at the top of the President’s domestic policymaking agenda, and he’s interested in having partners in Congress, in the House and the Senate, who will work with him to make progress in support of middle-class families.
And the President has done a number of interviews to encourage voters to be engaged in the midterm election process, and he’s worked hard to elevate the attention around issues that are affecting the middle class. And I guess we’ll find out on Election Day the extent to which Democratic candidates benefitted from that advocacy.
Q Also, what’s the timeline for this administration — since you’re saying that you want to attack it at the source, the Ebola situation at the source — what is the timeline for this administration as it pertains to the medical infrastructure in West Africa and the U.S. military? What is your timeline? Because I talked to retired General Kip Ward, who was the head of AFRICOM. He said it could take you six months, literally, to help build — if you were serious about it — to help build the medical infrastructure over there.
MR. EARNEST: Well, April, I don’t have an updated timeframe. I guess I’d refer you to the CDC or maybe even HHS, or maybe even the State Department, on this. I think that reflects the number of agencies that are engaged in this process.
But we believe, again, that the only way to entirely eliminate the risk to the American people from the Ebola virus is to stop this outbreak at the source. And you’ve seen a significant commitment of resources from the Department of Defense to supporting that infrastructure that’s necessary to move supplies and equipment and personnel into the region to do exactly that.
Q And I hear you, and I understand there’s a great need for this infrastructure, but if it’s so urgent why not be a timeline to help build this infrastructure to stop it at the source?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I think you might be conflating two different things. I’m not suggesting that the United States is going to go in and construct a medical infrastructure for these countries. I’m suggesting that this virus is raging out of control in these countries because there isn’t a modern medical infrastructure in place.
Q But you’re helping to support the building of a medical infrastructure.
MR. EARNEST: What we’re helping to do is to put in place the infrastructure that will allow supplies and personnel and equipment to get to this region of the world so that these medical professionals can do their work and treat those who are afflicted with this deadly disease.
I’m confident that it’s going to require more sustained and longer-term investment in this area of the world to build them the kind of medical infrastructure that’s needed to prevent these kinds of outbreaks in the future. What we’re focused on right now is trying to stop this outbreak.
Q And lastly, as there’s this conversation going in this room about the situation in New York and New Jersey, what’s the thought of this administration when it comes to colleges and universities in this country who have a lot of college students that come from Africa, particularly West Africa — Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia — and they’re imposing tougher travel restrictions on their students, particularly when it comes to the holiday season now? What’s the administration saying about that?
MR. EARNEST: Well, there are policies that are in place that guide this, April, which is there are screening measures that are in place in West Africa, and there are screening measures that airports in this country to make sure that individuals who have recently traveled to West Africa, when they get off the plane that their temperature is checked, that their personal contact information is collected so that the government can stay in touch with them. That information is then transferred to state and local authorities who can monitor the health of these individuals once they return. And we believe that’s what — that the science tells us that that’s the best way to ensure the safety of the American public.
Q Is that what you’re telling — the science to — about the science to universities and colleges when they’re imposing these tougher restrictions?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don’t think it’s the — I can’t speak to any restrictions that are being put in place by colleges and universities. What I can speak to are the restrictions that are currently in place — I mean, or the screening measures that are currently in place at airports in West Africa, at airports in this country, and then the kind of active monitoring that state and local officials will be responsible for doing when you have individuals with a travel history of being in West Africa that appear in their states.
Q Josh, thanks. Has President Obama spoken to Governors Christie or Cuomo?
MR. EARNEST: Kristen, as I’ve mentioned I think a couple of times now, the members of this administration have been in close touch with state and local officials in New York and New Jersey over the last several weeks.
Q I understand, but has the President spoken to them?
MR. EARNEST: And, Kristen, I’m telling you that I’m not going to detail specific conversations other than to say that there are a range of conversations that have occurred from White House officials, officials at HHS and DHS and CDC, with state and local officials in New York and New Jersey and a variety of other states across the country.
Q Have the White House officials actually spoken to the governors? And the reason why I ask that is because, as late as yesterday evening Governor Christie said he hadn’t spoken to the White House. So had someone from the White House reached out to Governor Christie directly?
MR. EARNEST: Kristen, I’m just not going to be in a position to read out individual conversations.
Q On the point of Ron Klain, he was appointed to be the point-person, the Ebola czar, whatever term you’d like to use.
MR. EARNEST: That’s not one we’ve used.
Q What has changed since he started his job? Because it appears as though this week there’s more confusion than there was last week, given what we’re seeing in New York and New Jersey and more sort of differences between how the states are dealing with this. So what’s changed? Has he accomplished, and is he accomplishing what he was appointed to do?
MR. EARNEST: Kristen, I will — I think the record should reflect that Mr. Klain started one week ago today last Wednesday.* And in that time we have seen a significant number of announcements related to the whole-of-government approach that the President has ordered to dealing with the Ebola situation.
We’ve seen a commitment from DOD not just to invest resources in West Africa, but also to put together a team of medical professionals that can be on standby in this country and ready to respond as necessary. We have seen a significant commitment of resources from federal governments around the world to the broader effort to stop the outbreak at its source in West Africa. We’ve seen beefed-up protocols that were issued by the CDC to guide the precautions that medical professionals in this country should take when they’re dealing with an Ebola patient. We’ve seen the CDC stand up and actually deploy a SWAT team from Atlanta to New York when there was the suspicion that an Ebola patient had been identified in New York.
There have been a whole series of training and outreach programs that have been performed by CDC officials in consultation obviously with state and local public health officials. This came in particularly handy in New York where there were thousands of health care professionals that were trained at the Javits Center in New York just days before this Ebola patient turned up in New York City.
There were additional screening measures that were implemented by DHS to ensure that individuals who had recently traveled in West Africa were now traveling only into those five airports in this country.
I see that you want to interrupt me, I’ve gone on quite some time and I apologize for doing so, but I think it’s important to reflect all that has been — all that has happened and all that has been announced in just the last week.
Obviously, some of that Mr. Klain was very closely involved with. Some of it he wasn’t, because it reflected work that had been done before he arrived. But I do think that what you see here is intensive coordination among a range of federal agencies to respond to this very difficult challenge.
Q And yet, wasn’t part of his task to streamline the response all across the country? And I understand what you’re saying about different states and James Madison. But still, picking up on where some of my colleagues have left off, the fact that you’re seeing this different response in New York, New Jersey, Florida fuels panic, I think, and misunderstanding about the disease. So doesn’t there need to be more of an effort to get everyone on the same page?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I don’t think that it fuels panic because I think people understand the facts. And to the extent that there is any panic, if that’s what you’ve observed, then maybe it’s important for me to repeat the basics about this disease one more time.
It’s important for people to understand that you cannot catch Ebola by drinking the water, eating the food in this country. Ebola is not spread through the air like the flu. The only way that you can catch Ebola, the only way that Ebola is transmitted is by coming into close contact with the bodily fluids of an individual who is already displaying symptoms of Ebola. That’s why the only two situations in which the Ebola virus has been transmitted in this country have been by health care workers who were treating a very sick Ebola patient.
So to the extent there is panic, I would encourage panicked individuals to consult the scientific facts and understand that the risk that is facing the average American, as Dr. Fauci said yesterday, is “vanishingly” low.
Q Does Ron Klain have any plans to go to New York or New Jersey, up to that region, and meet with officials there in person?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t anticipate that he has the plans to do that any time soon.
Q And then just one more, Josh. According to our latest NBC News/Marist Poll, three of the hardest-fought states — Iowa, Colorado and Arkansas — show Republicans with a one-point lead. How much responsibility does President Obama bear for this moment, the fact that Democrats are —
MR. EARNEST: Tied? (Laughter.)
Q — I should say Republicans are inching closer —
MR. EARNEST: I think, as I mentioned —
Q One-point lead eight days out.
MR. EARNEST: Yes, that’s not something — I guarantee you that if Democrats had a one-point lead in those states I wouldn’t be bragging about it.
What I will tell you is that the — even though there are states that — at least one of them that you named is a state that is considered a red state.
But let me just say something that I alluded to last week, which is that I am confident that in the aftermath of the election there will be ample opportunity for all of you to assess what sort of impact the President had on these races even though his name wasn’t on the ballot. But what I feel confident predicting in advance is that the President will at least get some credit if Democrats hold onto the majority in the Senate and he’ll get more than his fair share of the blame if they don’t.
Q Question about Ebola. You keep saying that what’s driving the decision-making on this is the science. And you were just explaining how difficult it is to catch this disease and so forth. What is it about the science of Ebola that has drawn this firm line where no DOD personnel will directly treat patients, particularly because, again, this is a matter of national security you say, and every doctor you talk to — or I’ve talked to — this problem can be solved? So what is it about the science that has drawn this line, stopping American doctors — associated with the DOD, at least, or elsewhere — from directly tackling this national security problem?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Ron, I think we have seen a commitment from American doctors and nurses traveling into West Africa.
Q But for volunteers.
MR. EARNEST: Yes, that’s right. Again, Americans who are summoning their own sort of spirit of humanity.
Q Right, but that’s not something that’s being organized by the administration to deal with the national security issue. And in talking to a lot of these volunteers, yes, they’re not paid well, they’re doing it on their vacations. Why leave such a huge problem to that sort of spirit individual?
MR. EARNEST: Well, Ron, I think what you have seen in this particular response is a commitment of resources by the United States government and by our Department of Defense that’s unparalleled. There’s no other international government that’s made a commitment like the United States has to ensuring that we’re going to strengthen the logistics in place in West Africa to speed the transfer of supplies, equipment and personnel into the region to stop this outbreak at the source.
And, again, this goes to something that the President talked about in the interview that he did with “60 Minutes” last week, that when there’s a significant problem like this that’s going on around the globe — and this is the kind of problem that people I think would prefer to just sort of put away the newspaper, turn off the television, pull the blinds, and act like it doesn’t exist. And the reason they would prefer to do that is because it’s a really hard one to solve.
We’re talking about three countries in West Africa that do not have modern medical infrastructures. You have very difficult situations in which medical professionals are trying to operate to meet the needs of the local population. And you’ve seen a commitment by the United States, by the President of the United States, and by our men and women in uniform that’s unprecedented, that is unparalleled by other countries.
And, again, when we have a situation like this on the global scene, people aren’t wondering what the Chinese are doing to respond to it. People aren’t picking up the phone and wondering if Vladimir Putin is going to commit Russian resources to this effort. People want to know what the United States of America is doing about it. And what this President has done is stepped up and showed the kind of American leadership that makes the American people proud. It also happens to be, as you point out, in the clear interest of the American people. This is a national security priority and it’s one we’re going to solve.
Q But what exactly is it about the science of Ebola, since you’re driven by science, that has drawn this line whereby the DOD, American troops will not deal directly with American patients — with Ebola patients? What scientifically has drawn that line?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I’m not sure that this is a scientific decision that was made as much as it is an operational decision that was made. The best way that the United States government can assist in this effort is to put in place the kind of infrastructure that is sorely lacking in West Africa. Right now, it is hard to get a large shipment of supplies and equipment where it is sorely needed in West Africa. But if you have — because of the involvement of the Department of Defense, because of the logistical expertise that our American military has, we can make that process of getting supplies and equipment into the region much more efficient and much faster. And so that’s sort of the — that’s the expertise that they can leverage to benefit this situation.
And what we have seen is that because of the commitment of American resources and personnel in that logistical effort, we’ve seen a bunch of nongovernmental organizations and other governments commit their own significant resources to dealing with this problem. Now, their commitment is not as big as the commitment that’s made by the United States, but it has had the effect of galvanizing the international community to pay attention and respond to this pressing situation.
Q Just lastly, are there incentives to individuals provided by the government to go and do this work? Because, again, one of the concerns about the quarantine is coming back for three weeks and not being able to work, taking time off to go do this. This is what many of these volunteer doctors are doing. And aside from providing airlift capability and so forth, are there incentives built into what you’re doing that on an individual basis would encourage a doctor to go and spend a month there, trying to deal with this problem?
MR. EARNEST: There’s nothing that I know of, but I’d encourage you to check with a couple of other agencies like USAID or CDC. Maybe there are programs where individuals can volunteer their time and get some compensation from the government and those programs. But I’d check with them.
Q I just wanted to return to something that April was asking about. Do you think it would be fair to say that between the radio ads, robocalls, radio interviews, all these sorts of things, that one area — I mean, to kind of contrast with what Jon was talking about — that the President has been very active as trying to turn out the black vote?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think there is no question that there is — that the President, in the course of his own campaigns, has been successful in motivating core elements of the Democratic Party to support his campaign. That’s been true of African American voters, that’s been true of Latino voters, it’s true of Asian voters, it’s true of young voters. So to the extent that the President has had his own personal success in motivating certain elements of that coalition, then, yes, the President is eager to try to use his influence to motivate people and, at least, at a minimum, help them understand the stakes of this election.
Q And you said that that’s the most important part of the coalition. I mean, just based on what the President has been doing, we haven’t seen him campaign for women or Latinos or young people in the same way. He hasn’t been going to college radio stations.
MR. EARNEST: Presumably there are young people and women that are listening to those radio shows. But you can check that out, I’m not certain about that.
Q And then lastly, kind of on this issue, you said that we’ll find out on Election Day how successful the President’s outreach efforts have been. Would you say that getting part of those coalition votes above where they were in 2010 or 2012 — is that a success for the President’s campaign efforts in these last few weeks?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I think we’ll see. We’ll see.
Q Let me just follow up on my colleague, Ron. Would the administration consider providing free military transport, let’s say, to U.S. volunteer health care workers, and offer them — to pay them for their possible quarantine period as well? Is that something that might work?
MR. EARNEST: I don’t know how logistically feasible that is, J.C. I’d refer you to the Department of Defense on that.
Q Thanks, Josh, appreciate it. Do you know if the White House has developed any protocols yet for Ambassador Power when she returns, in terms of will she be quarantined, will she observe it at home? And can you tell us about how big her party is and sort of give us a little background on what she’s doing?
MR. EARNEST: I’d refer you to my colleagues at the United Nations in terms of who else is traveling with her. But I’m confident that she will follow all of the policies that are in place when she returns, and that will include the active monitoring and the screening that everybody goes through when they go through that process. I’m confident that she’ll be subjected to those policies in the same way that everybody else is.
Q And it will be more so sort of on the CDC base than anything we saw in New York or New Jersey?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, it’s important — this actually goes back to the very first question from the briefing today. What New York and New Jersey put in place were specific policies related to health care workers who were returning from Africa. Ambassador Power, as far as I know, is not rendering any medical assistance while she is in West Africa. So there are policies in place that are implemented by state and local officials, because they have the authority to do so, that guide the monitoring of the health of those who are recently returned from West Africa. So she will, just like any other traveler, abide by those monitoring requirements.
Q Which are?
MR. EARNEST: Well, again, I guess I’d refer you to the state of New York. They obviously have been talking with us quite a bit, but my understanding and what the CDC has recommended is that individuals who have recently returned from West Africa or recently traveled in West Africa, that they go through the screening process. They’re going to get their temperature taken before they board an aircraft. They’ll get their temperature taken when they return. They’ll be subjected to an additional layer of screening once they disclose that they’ve spent some time in that region of the world. Their contact information will be collected and it will be shared with state and local officials who will be responsible for following up and actively monitoring the health of those individuals.
That is the policy that was envisioned by the Centers for Disease Control. I believe that’s the policy that’s been put in place in each of these states. But, again, you’d have to check with the state officials who have the authority for putting these policies in place.
Q You don’t have anything different here at the White House? There’s no official White House protocol?
MR. EARNEST: No. Again, it’s state officials that have the responsibility for implementing these policies.
I’ll give you the last one.
Q Thank you. I have a question about Ron Klain.
MR. EARNEST: Okay.
Q Basically, Ron Klain has — we want to know whether or not Ron Klain was involved in the discussions over the weekend with New York and New Jersey, whether or not he played a leading role, given the fact that he is the Ebola Response Coordinator, in convincing the governors there to change their policies.
MR. EARNEST: Well, as I mentioned to Kristen, I won’t read out specific conversations but I can tell you that the administration has been in close touch with him for a number of weeks, including over the weekend. And there continues to be robust coordination between federal officials here in the Obama administration, including here at the White House but also at the CDC and HHS, and state officials.
And, again, I think the best evidence or illustration of that successful coordination is the announcement from earlier today that Kaci Hickox had been discharged from the hospital where she’d been the last few days and was traveling to her home in Maine.
Q The American people have not yet heard from Ron Klain directly. Is he the face of the Ebola response for the American people? Will we see him? And if not, why not?
MR. EARNEST: As I’ve mentioned before, I wouldn’t rule out some sort of public appearance from Ron, but his principal responsibility is a behind-the-scenes role in coordinating the whole-of-government response that the President has directed be implemented to respond to this specific situation. And that means that he will work closely with the CDC and HHS, other White House officials, to make sure that the Ebola response is up to the high standards that the President has set. That has in the past included conversations with state and local officials, and I’m confident those kinds of conversations will continue.
All of that sounds like a lot of work to me and I anticipate we’ll limit the amount of time that he can dedicate to making the case publicly about our response. But if that need arises, I’m confident that he will do that if necessary.
Q Lastly, do we know what he’ll be doing in Atlanta?
MR. EARNEST: I know that he is slated to travel down there later this week. He is going to meet with CDC officials that he has been in regular touch with over the last several — over the last week that he has been in the job. But I don’t have any preview of his trip.
Thanks a lot, everybody. We’ll see you tomorrow.
2:14 P.M. EDT