Rep. Maxine Waters met Tuesday with officials from Los Angeles International Airport, the city and the county Department of Public Health to discuss Ebola screening and emergency-response protocols, and said she was confident that first-responders are well-prepared to react to a suspected case at the airport.
Waters, D-Los Angeles, requested the meeting last week, saying there is “growing concern in the community about the threat that Ebola poses to public health.”
Following the meeting with a variety of city and health officials, Waters said she was confident that passengers passing through the airport are safe.
“We came together today and we got very, very good information from all of the panelists that participated here today about protocols, information about how they have worked to put together these protocols in a very detailed and determined way,” Waters said. “And so, in talking with some of our community leaders and others who were here today, they basically said that having been here, they felt safer. Of course, there are many, many questions that will be asked, but today we feel that LAX is on it, and they basically understand what needs to be done in order to protect the passengers traveling in and out of this airport.”
In a letter sent last week to Los Angeles World Airports Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, Waters wrote that she wanted to ensure the public understands that procedures are “being followed at LAX to protect passengers, employees and the community.”
She said today that improvements can likely be made in communicating with neighborhoods surrounding the airport.
“I think having met here today, everyone agreed that we will do more to share information and let people know exactly what the protocols are and how it all works,” she said. “We think that, again, having been here today, we’ll have better and stronger communications.”
Federal authorities implemented stepped-up screening of incoming passengers from West Africa at five U.S. airports considered gateways for travelers from the area — O’Hare in Chicago, Kennedy in New York, Dallas International, Hartsfied Jackson in Atlanta and Newark Liberty international. Authorities are also tracking the movements of passengers who may take connecting flights and travel to other destinations.
Los Angeles County health officials said last week they have been notified about several people who have recently returned to the Southland following trips to Ebola-affected areas. Those people are being monitored by health officials.
Health officials stress, however, that there are no suspected or confirmed cases of Ebola in California.
Dr. Marc Eckstein, medical director for the Los Angeles Fire Department, said after the meeting with Waters that first-responders want to ensure the accuracy of information that is relayed from flight attendants and pilots about a potentially sick passenger so appropriate precautions can be taken without needlessly causing a health panic.
He said he wants information “more accurate for the first responders, because historically it’s just a sick passengers an on inbound flight.”
“Obviously we want to minimize having to move the aircraft to a remote terminal,” Eckstein said. “We realize the impact psychologically on all the passengers on that aircraft given the hysteria about Ebola. We want to have an abundance of caution, but we really don’t want to foment hysteria and panic.”
— City News Service