Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., used his 4-day trip to Ebola-stricken Liberia to emphasize it is a safe place to travel — and additional investment may be needed to keep it that way.
“By my coming, I was hoping to demonstrate it was safe; that it is possible to come and engage in Liberia,” said Coons, who is the first member of Congress to visit the country since the disease spread across West Africa earlier this year. Speaking on a conference call with reporters, the Delaware Democrat said many international aid workers had left Liberia over the summer and have not returned.
“I think it is important for the world community to recognize it is safe to come to Liberia and that there are great people doing good things here,” Coons said.
Coons’ visit comes after Congress recently approved a $1.1 trillion "cromnibus" spending package that included $5.4 billion to fight Ebola in the U.S. and West Africa. President Barack Obama signed it into law last week.
Coons said his visit was also designed to remind the American people that Ebola remains a significant threat and additional investment may be needed to keep the region safe.
“We need to continue our investment and partnership in order to get to a place where the world is safe from Ebola,” Coons said.
Despite the relative safety of traveling in Liberia, Coons said he has taken precautions.
He discussed safety with Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden, whom he met with first in Liberia. Coons also said the Senate physician reviewed his itinerary, and he has not gone to any facilities with Ebola-infected patients or had contact with health care workers caring for Ebola patients.
“My visit here has been deemed to be low-risk," Coons said.
When he returns Tuesday, he will self-monitor and report his temperature for 21 days. Congress returns on Jan. 6, about a week before Coons’s 21-day monitoring window ends.
“I will be making sure that I’m consistently self-monitoring and if I present with any symptoms I expect I will be quarantined until cleared,” Coons said. “I think the health risk presented to my family and the people of Delaware is very, very minimal, but I feel a strong responsibility to make sure I don’t develop any symptoms and if I do, whether it’s from flu or something else, to report it and to quarantine if called for.”
Coons, a member of the Appropriations Committee who is expected to be the ranking member Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, was scheduled to meet with Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf later Monday.
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