White House not naming Ebola ‘czar,’ despite calls to do so

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Washington (CNN) — The White House continued to rebuff demands from Republican lawmakers to name an Ebola “czar” Monday, saying the current strategy headed by a top adviser allows the government to more effectively prevent the virus’ spread.

Even on the Columbus Day federal holiday, the White House was keen to demonstrate its handle on the Ebola crisis, scheduling a briefing for President Barack Obama with senior officials on a new case of Ebola in Dallas and inviting cameras to document it.

On Sunday, Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, became the latest in a line of lawmakers to insist that Obama appoint a single person in his administration to shepherd federal resources toward combating Ebola, which health officials said over the weekend had infected a second person in Dallas.

McCain told CNN’s Candy Crowley on Sunday that “there has to be some kind of czar” focused on preventing Ebola from spreading in the United States, a markedly different stance from the Arizona Republican’s 2009 view that Obama had “more czars than the Romanovs.”

“My constituents are not comforted,” he said on “State of the Union.” “There has to be more reassurance given to them. I would say that we don’t know exactly who’s in charge.”

A senior administration official on Monday said no plans were in place to make such an appointment.

Obama’s top homeland security adviser, Lisa Monaco, remains responsible for coordinating the administration’s response to the Ebola crisis, the White House said.

“Our response needs to be as nimble and as bureaucratically lean as possible in order to bring the overseas epidemic under control and respond efficiently and effectively here at home. We will make any adjustments we feel to be necessary,” the official said.

Over the weekend, Monaco briefed Obama on the latest Ebola case in Dallas, where a nurse contracted the disease after treating an African patient who later died. Obama also phoned Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, insisting that federal officials reiterate proper safety protocols to hospitals.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials have said the latest Ebola infection in Dallas could have stemmed from the improper use of protective equipment.

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After the new case was revealed, the top Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee said patients in the U.S. should all be transferred to specialized biocontainment centers that have been rigorously prepared to treat Ebola cases.

Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi said the circumstances surrounding the nurse in Dallas raise the question of “whether ordinary hospitals that may not have had specialized training on caring for seriously ill patients safely should be responsible for the long-term care of an Ebola patient when there are beds available in one of our nation’s biocontainment units.”

“That’s a decision we’re leaving to the medical professionals,” the administration official said of Thompson’s proposal. “We plan to follow their recommendations. To date, they have not made such a recommendation.”

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