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'God's Work': Obama Says U.S. Must Support Health Workers Who Go to Africa

President Obama says U.S. must do all it can to support workers fighting Ebola in Africa, not stigmatize them.
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President Barack Obama called on the country to support health workers treating Ebola patients in West Africa, praising their "incredible heroism" as states have imposed mandatory quarantines for returning doctors.

"America, in the end is not defined by fear. That's not who we are. America is defined by possibility, and when we see a problem and we see a challenge, then we fix it," the president said Tuesday on the White House South Lawn before embarking on a trip to Milwaukee.

"We want to make sure that we understand that they are doing God's work over there, and they're doing that to keep us safe."

Obama earlier Tuesday had a conference call with the members of the USAID team that has been on the ground in West Africa since August. Ebola has killed nearly 5,000 people, mostly in the West African countries of Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, in an outbreak that has overwhelmed local health care systems.

After a doctor who recently treated Ebola patients in Africa tested positive for the disease in New York City, New York and New Jersey imposed rules requiring returning health care workers who have been in contact with Ebola patients be placed in mandatory quarantine. "We don't want to discourage our health care workers from going to the front lines and dealing with this in an effective way," Obama said, and that monitoring procedures would be "based on the science, based on the facts."

Obama said the USAID Disaster Assistance Response Team is now the backbone of America’s response in West Africa, and has increased burial teams, made it easier for medical supplies and equipment to flow into the region, and launched an aggressive education campaign.

"It's typical of what America does best,” Obama said of the response team. "When others are in trouble, when disease or disaster strikes, Americans help."


— Hasani Gittens