The potential 2016 presidential candidate said he wants “a temporary stop of travel for elective travel. If you’re coming to visit your relatives, couldn’t that wait for a few months? When we had polio, we had restrictions on things with polio. So I don’t think it’s out of the ordinary for a government to be involved in this.”
The ban should not affect shipments of humanitarian aid or travel for health-care workers, he said.
“What I’m saying is elective travel, commercial travel for people who just want to visit the United States, that really isn’t a necessity.”
He criticized President Obama, accusing him of playing down the Ebola threat. “I think the president’s mistake was, like, saying, ‘Oh, it’s no big deal. You can’t catch it if you’re sitting on a bus with somebody.’ Well, apparently you can be in the intensive care unit gloved, gowned and masked and still get it. It’s very contagious when someone’s sick. So I think it was a mistake for him to say, “Oh, it’s no big deal.’”
But speaking on another Sunday show, Paul said that “the libertarian in me is horrified” by the idea of quarantining health-care workers and others without due process.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” he said striking the proper balance between individual rights and public health protection is “a tough question.”
“I think that we have to be very careful of civil liberties,” said Paul, a doctor. But he added that he understood the fears surrounding the disease. “There is a reasonable public concern that you really shouldn’t be going to the discotheque,” he said.
Still, Paul told a group of college students last week that the virus could be easier to contract than AIDS, according to the Associated Press. “No one’s going to cough on you and you’re going to get AIDS. That’s what they make [Ebola transmission] sound exactly like,” Paul said. “But then you listen to them closely, they say you have to have direct contact. But you know how they define direct contact? Being within three feet of someone.”
That drew criticism Sunday from the chair of the Democratic National Committee, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.).
“When you have Republican senators like Rand Paul — who’s a doctor who should know better — who are saying you can be three feet from somebody who has Ebola and get it, that is an example of how Republicans are politicizing it,” she said on “Fox News Sunday.”
Paul’s comments about civil liberties came two days after a judge in Maine sided with nurse Kaci Hickox, who defied attempts by Maine Gov. Paul LePage ( R) to have her quarantined. Hickox, who returned to the United States after caring for Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, had gotten into a public spat with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R ) after officials in that state detained her for three days in an isolation tent after she got off a plane at Newark International Airport.
Hickox, 33, has shown no signs of Ebola infection and said she has been self-monitoring according to guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Alluding to the Hickox case, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power, suggested Sunday that the country ought to treat health-care workers who care for Ebola victims in Africa “with great respect and appreciation when they come home.”
On “Face the Nation,” Power quoted Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank, who predicts that as many as 5,000 nurses and health-care workers will be needed in the coming months to cope with the Ebola crisis. “That is a large number when you think about how many people have to take away from their practices, make themselves available for three or four weeks,” she said. “…We need to make sure that we incentivize these extraordinary individuals to go into the region and we welcome them and treat them with great respect and appreciation when they come home.”
Power, who recently returned from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, said that “there really are positive signs” in all three countries regarding attempts to stop the spread of Ebola. The three countries, hit hardest by the outbreak, have dramatically improved the safety of burials, she said. Unsafe burial practices for Ebola victims had compounded the spread of the lethal virus.
In addition, work by personnel from the CDC, the United Nations, and the U.S. and British military has had some significant effect, she said.
“Wherever we have an Ebola treatment unit, a lab and social mobilization, infection rates are coming way down,” she said. “Where we don’t, they’re not. It’s that simple.”