A White House official said the longtime Democratic aide would ensure that “efforts to protect the American people by detecting, isolating and treating Ebola patients in this country are properly integrated but don’t distract from the aggressive commitment to stopping Ebola at the source in West Africa.”
The new “Ebola czar” will report directly to Obama’s Homeland Security Advisor Lisa Monaco and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.
“Monaco, Rice and others have done outstanding work in confronting this challenge so far, but given their management of other national and homeland security priorities, additional bandwidth will further enhance the government’s Ebola response,” the White House official said.
Klain, a former senior White House aide to Obama and chief of staff to Vice President Joe Biden and former vice president Al Gore, currently heads Case Holdings, a holding company founded by former AOL chief executive Steve Case, and is general counsel at technology-oriented venture capital firm Revolution LLC.
The administration has been criticized for its response to the incidents of Ebola in the United States, in terms of how prepared hospitals have been for potential Ebola patients and also how prepared healthcare workers were in terms of their personal protective gear. Some lawmakers have called for a travel ban on individuals coming from West Africa where the outbreak is most serious but the administration has so far not embraced that idea.
Klain is highly regarded at the White House as a good manager with excellent relationships both in the administration and on Capitol Hill. His supervision of the allocation of funds in the stimulus act, at the time and incredible and complicated government undertaking, is respected in Washington. He does not have any extensive background in health care but the job is regarded as a managerial challenge.
A Liberian man died from the disease in Texas on October 8 and two American nurses who treated him have also tested positive for a disease that had already killed nearly 4,500 people as of Sunday, most of them in hard-hit Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
The nurses’ infection embarrassed US health authorities, who faced questioning about how the disease, which kills around 70 percent of those it infects in West Africa, had spread.
U.S. lawmakers held a congressional hearing on Thursday about the administration’s handling of the outbreak and some called for a ban on travel from West Africa. Rising public anxiety over the disease prompted Obama to cancel two days of political events weeks before Nov. 4 congressional elections.