Gov. Rick Scott criticized the federal government Friday for not doing more to help Florida prepare for a possible Ebola outbreak.
At a press conference near the Fort-Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Scott said that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) had not yet met Florida's requests to provide more Ebola testing kits and protective equipment for the state's healthcare system. “I am now asking them publicly to support us in these important preparedness efforts for our state,” Scott said.
Scott, who is running for reelection, said his administration would take its own measures to guard against a possible outbreak, including identifying $1.25 million in federal grant funds to buy protective gear, requesting $7 million in additional federal funds for further preparedness and ordering the Florida National Guard to set up two rapid-response teams that could provide medical treatment to any potential Ebola patients.
“The [Centers for Disease Control] and the federal government have already failed to get ahead of the spread of Ebola in Texas and we're not going to let that happen in Florida,” Scott added.
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Scott also said that 46 Florida hospitals had so far notified the state that their staff had completed mandatory Ebola training. The CDC is in the process of updating its procedures for the safe treatment of the disease.
The governor will not designate any specific Florida hospitals to treat potential Ebola cases, he said. (New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that eight hospitals in his state had been assigned to care for any Ebola patients.) “I think right now we should expect every hospital can handle an Ebola patient,” Scott explained.
Scott said the CDC has so far provided the state with three Ebola testing kits that he said would be enough to help diagnose around 25 patients. The state had initially requested 30 kits. Scott said the state is also still waiting to hear if it can redirect more than $7 million in federal funds to purchase protective equipment for healthcare workers and first responders.
The press conference took place after Scott held a meeting with officials from the airport, the Department of Health and other state agencies. A Frontier Airlines plane that landed at the Fort Lauderdale airport on Monday had previously flown Amber Joy Vinson, a Dallas nurse who was later diagnosed with Ebola, from Dallas to Cleveland. Kent George, Broward County’s aviation director who also spoke at the conference, said the county didn't know that Vinson had been on that plane until several days later. Scott added that the CDC should notify Florida passengers who had been on that flight about any potential health risks.