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Democratic Senator: Restrict Africa Visas Due to Ebola

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

A Senate Democrat is joining the chorus of calls for travel restrictions from African countries with Ebola outbreaks.  

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., is calling for the Obama administration to consider stopping unnecessary travel, such as that not related to providing humanitarian aid. Nelson said he thought this could be done through travel visas in consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

"These travel bans could be temporary until the CDC determines the affected areas no longer pose a threat. This would not only help protect Americans here at home, it would also provide additional time for the added steps the administration is implementing to take effect," Nelson wrote in a new letter to Secretary of State John Kerry.  

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters traveling aboard Air Force One on Tuesday to expect details on new Ebola screening procedures to be released in the days ahead. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement that the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told him new airport screenings for Ebola symptoms should come this week.  

"As each day brings additional cases of Ebola and new countries are being forced to confront the epidemic, it makes eminent sense for the CDC to step up their efforts to keep this disease from taking hold in the United States," Schumer said in a statement. "The CDC has been doing a very good job thus far in combating the threat, but you can’t be too careful when it comes to stopping a deadly epidemic. I’m pleased the CDC will be going further and ramping up their screening procedures so that we can prevent additional cases of Ebola here at home."  

The administration has resisted a travel ban, with the CDC warning that could make it harder to deliver aid to the affected regions and could actually increase the risks of an expanded outbreak.  

Schumer requested additional screenings in a letter sent Sunday.  

The text of Nelson's letter to Kerry appears below:

Dear Secretary Kerry: I have reviewed the administration’s comprehensive plan to prevent the spread of the Ebola virus and I support the national-security and public-health efforts in this regard. It would seem that another means of reducing the chances of exposure to the virus here at home would be to temporarily suspend unnecessary travel to the United States under existing visas and the issuance of new visas for citizens of countries that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identifies as areas with high rates of infections. These travel bans could be temporary until the CDC determines the affected areas no longer pose a threat. This would not only help protect Americans here at home, it would also provide additional time for the added steps the administration is implementing to take effect. Of course, that wouldn’t block travel involving humanitarian assistance, medical personnel or the flow of supplies to areas hard hit by the virus. While there have been unheeded calls in recent weeks from lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle wanting similar action, I believe it is imperative the administration reconsider temporary, targeted travel restrictions at this time. I look forward to your response.
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