2014 In Review: Ebola scare had Florida preparing, criticizing the feds

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Florida this past year never was seriously under threat of having any of its residents come down with Ebola, but that didn’t stop state officials and Gov. Rick Scott from criticizing the federal response in the weeks leading up to Scott’s re-election.

State officials also carried out a series of counter measures while also demanding the release of federal money to allow Florida to ramp up its preparation efforts.

An Ebola epidemic began ravaging several West African nations this  year and as a result thousands of people got sick and died.

The Centers for Disease Control and Protection was in charge of the U.S. Ebola response, and initially everything seemed well under control. CDC sent teams to help in West Africa. Tom Frieden, the head of the CDC, repeatedly assured Americans they were safe from an Ebola outbreak here, and that U.S. hospitals were able to isolate and handle any cases that should arrive from West Africa.

But public confidence was shaken after a Liberian visitor named Thomas Eric Duncan came down with the infectious disease in late September, days after he arrived in Dallas. He died October 8, and two nurses who treated him at a Dallas hospital were infected.

How the nurses caught Ebola was unclear, but Frieden later said he should have sent a much larger team to Dallas initially to help hospital workers prevent any spread of the virus.

No one besides Duncan died of Ebola in the United States, and no other transmission of the disease was ever reported, and yet Frieden came under heavy criticism for the CDC’s handling of Ebola. Some politicians called for his dismissal. President Barack Obama stuck with Frieden, but appointed an ”Ebola czar” to help coordinate the government’s response.

Scott and state officials were among those who sharply criticized the CDC.

In the wake of that criticism, state officials undertook their own steps even though there was never an identified Ebola threat in Florida.

Scott issued an executive order requiring the Department of Health to do twice-a-day monitoring of individuals coming into the state from Ebola-impacted countries. He defended it saying, “We’ve got 19.6 million people living in this state. I want them to be safe,” Scott said. “I want all of our health-care workers, our first responders, to be safe.”

In addition to the DOH the Agency for Health Care Administration also was on Ebola duty. AHCA coordinated with the Department of Health to make sure all hospitals had trained staff and protective gear and had conducted an Ebola preparedness exercise.

AHCA also coordinated with the Department of Health regarding putting out information related to infection protocol. Data on the status of hospital preparation was sent out to reporters.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this story.