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THE SITUATION ROOM
New Restrictions for Staff Who Treated Ebola Patient; Missing Student Search Moves into New Phase
Aired October 17, 2014 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN: Happening now, breaking news -- new restrictions for health care workers who may have been exposed to the Ebola virus.
What drastic actions are Texas officials asking of dozens of hospital staff members?
Ebola czar -- the White House bows to pressure and names a point man to lead the administration's response to the health crisis.
Is it too little?
Is it too late?
Discharged -- the son of Vice President Joe Biden kicked out of the U.S. Navy Reserve after failing a drug test.
What did the results show in his system?
New focus -- a twist in the search for a missing college student.
Will this new direction finally solve the mystery of what happened to Hannah Graham?
I'm Wolf Blitzer.
You're in THE SITUATION ROOM.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news -- new restrictions for health care workers who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man with the first case of Ebola diagnosed here in the United States.
State officials are asking dozens of staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to sign an agreement stating they'll avoid commercial travel and public gatherings for 21 days. That's the maximum incubation period of the Ebola virus.
And a top Dallas health official who was at Duncan's bedside is now being monitored himself for symptoms of Ebola.
We're covering all angles of the breaking news with our correspondents, our guests, including Congressman Peter King, a member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Let's begin with our aviation correspondent, Rene Marsh.
She has much more on the growing fear about possible exposure to the Ebola virus -- Rene, what's the latest?
RENE MARSH, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, the CDC and Frontier Airlines, they are working the phones, notifying hundreds of passengers. On Vinson's first flight. She went from Dallas to Cleveland. We know that there were some 153 people on board.
On her second flight, which flew from Cleveland right back to Dallas, there were 132 passengers on board. The CDC is still in the process of contacting everyone, but the airline says it has notified all passengers on both of these flights.
The airline going a step further, even contacting people who later flew on this plane. We're talking about the one that went from Cleveland to Dallas. That plane, once it landed and once Vinson was off of the plane, it made five other trips.
So when you add all of this up, we're talking about up to 800 passengers being notified. And all of this is because health officials are concerned Vinson could have had symptoms earlier than originally thought, potentially exposing more people.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRISTOPHER BRADEN, DIVISION OF FOODBORNE, WATERBORNE AND ENVIRONMENTAL DISEASES, CDC: She rested for a long time. On some days, she said she felt funny. Those types of things, but nothing specific.
We can't rule out that she wasn't ill, OK, for the time that she was here in Ohio. And so we're going to be very conservative. We're going to be very aggressive.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MARSH: Well, health officials are monitoring 16 people in Northeast Ohio because they were either in the vicinity of or had contact with Vinson. That includes her stepfather. Her mother, we're told, is under self-quarantine at a Dallas hotel. And two employees at that Ohio bridal shop where Vinson visited, they're also self-quarantined -- Wolf.
BLITZER: And, Rene, there's also an Ebola scare on a Carnival Cruise ship.
Tell our viewers what we know.
MARSH: That's right, Wolf. And we're talking about this cruise ship here is on the water as we speak. It is making its way to Galveston, Texas.
What we can tell you is a lab supervisor from the hospital where this Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, died, this lab worker is quarantined, self-quarantined within her cabin on board this cruise ship. The woman never had direct contact with Duncan, but she may have had contact with his samples.
So they're doing this out of an abundance of caution. The ship is currently, as I said, returning to Texas.
We should note, Mexico refused to allow it to dock. That was one of the stops along this seven day cruise. And, also, a request by the United States government to evacuate the passenger through Belize, that was rejected.
We should note, she has no symptoms at this point -- Wolf.
BLITZER: It goes to underscore how concerned people are all over the world. Mexico wouldn't let it dock. Belize wouldn't let it even accept this one passenger.
We'll continue to watch this story.
Rene, thanks very much.
For the first time, we're also getting a look at one of the American Ebola patients in the hospital. Dramatic images of Dallas nurse, Nina Pham, now in isolation at the National Institutes of Health here in the Washington, DC area, in Bethesda, Maryland.
CNN's Brian Todd is over at NIH for us -- Brian, what's the latest on her condition?
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, you know, Nina Pham was listed in good condition earlier this week. She is now downgraded to fair condition. But officials here say that is a result of fatigue from her trip here from Dallas last night.
We've got some new pictures to show you of inside the plane and some other aspects of that voyage from Dallas to Maryland last night.
Now, Nina Pham is under the care of some highly trained and highly protected team of specialists.
TODD (voice-over): The 26-year-old nurse who volunteered to treat Ebola's patient zero in the U.S. is amazingly upbeat after having to switch from one isolation ward to another.
NINA THAM, FIRST TEXAS NURSE DIAGNOSED WITH EBOLA: (INAUDIBLE).
TODD: Moments later, she gets emotional, knowing she's about to leave.
TODD: Now Nina Pham's isolation is more intense. She's sealed off inside a high containment chamber, the Special Clinical Studies Unit at the National Institutes of Health.
Doctors say she's sitting up and responsive.
DR. RICHARD DAVEY, DIRECTOR, SPECIAL CLINICAL STUDIES UNIT, NIH: She's interactive with the staff. She's eating. And she is able to interact freely and we really think she's doing quite well compared to what we were told about her status at the other hospital.
TODD: The other hospital, Texas Health Presbyterian in Dallas, asked to have Pham transferred. Much of the hospital's staff, who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, is being monitored for symptoms. At least 50 health care workers there may have been exposed to Ebola.
That facility simply couldn't handle Pham's treatment. In the NIH isolation chamber, Pham is in a room with powered air purifying respirators, meaning no outside air gets in, and air from that room doesn't get out. At any given time, one infectious disease doctor and one critical care doctor are with her. They'll work in 12-hour shifts. Five nurses are on each shift, two of them in a room with Pham at a given time.
They're all in HAZMAT suits and the buddy system is crucial.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You have a very strict system of getting dressed with someone watching you going in, coming out, getting undressed with someone watching you. We have a limited amount of time when the person can be in the room so that they don't get fatigued. That's what keeps our health care workers safe.
TODD: Experts say there is no direct treatment for Ebola, so they're likely going to treat Pham's symptoms.
DR. CELINE GOUNDER, INFECTIOUS DISEASES AND PUBLIC HEALTH SPECIALIST: She's going to be receiving fluids, having potassium and other electrolytes repleted. She'll be monitored for infection. And if she gets an infection, she would be getting antibiotics.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
TODD: Now, Nina Pham already had one critical procedure even before she got here. That was a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly. He was an Ebola patient who contracted the virus in Africa and he survived.
Dr. Anthony Fauci says that transfusion was critical, because Brantly had antibodies in his system that fought off the virus.
Dr. Fauci says of Nina Pham, "We are committed to having this patient walk out of this hospital" -- Wolf.
BLITZER: That would be excellent, excellent news, Brian.
What about the other facilities?
How many other facilities are there?
I take it not very many, like the one at NIH, where you are right now. If there are more Ebola patients, more cases in the United States -- and, as you know, there is fear there could be some more.
TODD: There is fear there could be some more, Wolf. And that is a real concern. There are only four facilities in the United States like this one, these high containment facilities. There is this facility. There's one at Emory University, one in Nebraska and one in Missoula, Montana.
And we talked to a health expert today who said that she was very concerned if there are more cases of Ebola, whether they're going to have enough beds, enough facilities to treat a lot more patients.
We're going to hope that, obviously, they keep those -- that patient tally down. But they only have two beds for Ebola patients here at NIH. And, of course, Nina Pham is in one of them.
BLITZER: And they only have, what, 17 at all the other three facilities?
That's what I've heard.
Is that right?
TODD: I believe that's close to it, Wolf. And, again, you know, when you talk about 50 health care workers just at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital who are now being monitored for possible exposure to Ebola, then you can see what they're up against if more cases develop.
BLITZER: All right, Brian, stand by over there at NIH.
We'll get back to you.
President Obama now bowing to growing calls for a point man to lead the federal response to the crisis. As CNN first reported earlier today, he's tapping a former chief of staff to the vice president, Joe Biden, and the former vice president, Al Gore, to be the country's so- called Ebola czar.
Our senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, is working this part of the story for us.
So what happened -- Jim?
It seems like there's been a shift in White House strategy as far as an Ebola czar is considered over the past few days?
JIM ACOSTA, HOST: A big shift, Wolf. And the White House is not calling Ron Klain a czar. Instead, he will be what officials are calling the, quote, "Ebola response coordinator."
And unlike a czar, Klain will not be his own boss.
BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Chairman Dempsey.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Hammered for days over its lack of Ebola leadership, the White House is confident a remedy is now in place.
OBAMA: We've got an all hands on deck approach across government to make sure that we are keeping the American people safe.
ACOSTA: The latest hands on deck, Ron Klain, tapped to become the president's Ebola response coordinator. A former chief of staff to both Vice Presidents Joe Biden and Al Gore, Klain was made famous during the 2000 election recount and the film that followed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice president, our battle is not yet done.
ACOSTA: But Klain has no medical experience.
(on camera): What does Ron Klain know about Ebola?
JOSH EARNEST, DEPUTY WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: What we were looking for ISIS not an Ebola expert, but rather an implementation expert.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Republicans were quick to pounce.
REP. BILL JOHNSON (R), OHIO: And I'm not sure what appointing someone that has no experience in health care or public health administration is going to do to help stem the tide of Ebola in West Africa and protect the public health of Americans here at home.
ACOSTA: Aides say Klain is no all powerful czar. He'll report to national security adviser, Susan Rice, and counterterrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, who answer to the president.
Earlier this week, the White House insisted Monaco could handle the task of being the Ebola point person.
(on camera): She can do that and Ebola?
EARNEST: She is a highly capable individual who can fulfill her responsibilities.
ACOSTA (voice-over): One day later, the president changed course.
OBAMA: It may be appropriate for me to appoint an additional person.
ACOSTA: And more shifts could come. Pressure is building on the administration to reconsider a travel ban on flights from West Africa.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: I believe it is the right policy to ban air travel from countries that have been hit hardest by the Ebola outbreak.
ACOSTA: Endangered Democratic Senator Kay Hagan broke from the president in calling for travel restrictions. With the president indicating he's listening...
OBAMA: I don't have a philosophical objection, necessarily, to a travel ban.
ACOSTA: -- the White House is no longer knocking it down.
EARNEST: It's an option that will continue to be on the table.
(END VIDEO TAPE)
ACOSTA: Now, the administration announced it is speeding up production of Ebola drugs and potentially a vaccine.
As for Ron Klain, the White House would not say when he would be on the job over here at the White House, only that it will be very soon, perhaps as soon as next week. And he's expected to be in this role for five to six months -- Wolf, that's a sign of cautious optimism that perhaps they can beat the virus by then -- Wolf.
BLITZER: Let's hope -- I hope they can.
All right, thanks very much.
Jim Acosta at the White House.
Let's continue to follow the breaking news.
Joining us now, Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.
He's a key member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
Congressman, do you have confidence in Ron Klain to be the so-called Ebola czar?
REP. PETER KING, R-NEW YORK: Wolf, I think he's very capable. I've never worked with him myself, but I know he's highly regarded.
But I just wonder if he's the right person for this job. I would have preferred someone with a command presence, someone like a former NYPD commissioner, Ray Kelly, or General Colin Powell, someone who can mobilize forces, someone who can really command troops on the ground, if you will.
For instance, if there -- God forbid there is an outbreak in a particular city or area, someone who can, again, mobilize everyone that has to be brought together and has the absolute power to do that.
But, listen, I wish him well. Certainly, I would hope that the Congress will cooperate with him in every way. This is too important for partisan politics. And I hope that, you know, my misgivings are proven wrong, because I want him to succeed. This is too serious.
BLITZER: It's very serious, indeed. And I know you have some strong views on many of the most sensitive issues. I want to discuss all of those with you, Congressman.
We'll take a quick break.
KING: All right. BLITZER: Much more right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news. Texas officials now asking dozens of health care workers who treated the Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan, to sign an agreement limiting their movements. They're being asked to avoid public gatherings and commercial travel for three weeks.
We're back with Republican Congressman Peter King of New York.
He's a key member of the House Homeland Security Committee.
As you well know, Congressman, a passenger died of natural causes on a flight from Nigeria to JFK International Airport in New York on Thursday. Officials are saying this person did not have Ebola.
But you're taking issue. You're very concerned about the way this was handled.
Tell us why.
KING: Yes, Wolf, I am.
First of all, we've seen so much uncertainty from the CDC over the last several weeks. I mean, first we were told it's almost impossible to be communicated, to be -- you know, for people to catch it, if you will. And then we find out now more than 800 people are being tracked who could have been on the same plane with one of the nurses.
In this case, in JFK in New York, it was a 63-year-old person. He died on the way over on the plane and was seen vomiting on the plane.
Now, the CDC went on the plane and after I -- I was contacted by local workers there who observed this -- and said that after what they considered a cursory examination, it was decided this person did not have Ebola and the police and customs people had to remove the body from the plane.
Now, their concern was, how certain could they be that that person did not have Ebola, that those bodily fluids were not infected with Ebola?
Then they also raised the issue that, you know, they have these tests being given at these locations at the airport, but before someone gets there to be tested, they walk through almost the entire airport. They can use restrooms, they're mingling with other passengers from other flights and then they finally get tested. And when they are tested, what happens to the person who tests (INAUDIBLE) exposed, it turns out they're positive?
What's done to protect that worker actually, you know, carried out the test or did the screening?
So I just think that a lot more has to be done as far as protocols and as far as procedures, because, again, the CDC has been so wrong over the last several weeks, from basically saying it was impossible to get it to now monitoring 800 people who just may have been on a plane with this one nurse.
BLITZER: But, Congressman...
KING: Yes, I'm sorry, Wolf.
BLITZER: -- let me -- no, no, no. I just want to make it clear, in this particular case, there was no Ebola. They turned out with hindsight...
BLITZER: -- to be right.
They handled it correctly, right?
KING: Right. Absolutely. Well, I don't know if they handled it right, the decision turned out to be right.
But I mean do we know that they could do that quick an examination of someone and conclude that the person did not have Ebola?
Now, listen, many people came into contact with the gentleman down in Texas and they didn't get Ebola. But two of them did.
So just because they're right once doesn't mean they would be right again.
So I'm saying let's get -- make sure the protocols are in place. And I asked, basically, the HHS secretary -- I mean the Homeland Security secretary or the DHS secretary to just get back to us and also CPB, Customs and Border Protection, to make sure that the protocols are working.
The workers at the airport are very concerned that not enough is being done to protect them. And in view of all that's gone wrong over the last several weeks, I'd rather be safe than sorry.
BLITZER: I read your tough letter to the secretary of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson.
BLITZER: I have it right here -- and Gil Kerlikowske, the commissioner of the U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
But specifically, what so-called "ongoing vulnerabilities" are there for these workers at JFK International Airport, and, presumably, at other airports around the country, as well?
KING: Well, the fact that I was saying, before they get to a screening center, before they can be tested, the people -- and we get at JFK Airport every day, 70 to 100 people from West Africa coming into JFK. They get off the plane. They walk. It's a 10 or 15 minute walk, at least a 10 minute walk through parts of the airport, mingling with other passengers, meeting -- mingling with passengers from other planes.
During that walk through, they can stop at restrooms. They can use the restrooms. They are in contact with many people.
Then, when they finally do get screened, the person who is screening or testing them has no protective gear on at all, like the nurses had.
So, again, what happens to that worker if the person does prove to test positive?
How about all the people that have come in contact with this person -- with these -- this person who is walking through the airport?
If we're so concerned about the 800 people that have been in contact with the nurse, just think how concerned we'd have to be about...
KING: -- having a person walking through a place like JFK.
BLITZER: So, Congressman, it sounds to me like the only way to prevent what your fears are would be a travel ban for all passengers coming in from West Africa, whether Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, is that right?
KING: Yes, Wolf. I support -- and I did not originally, but I do now -- support a ban on all travelers from those countries. So basically, I would call -- and I think Chairman Mike McCaul of the Homeland Security Committee, as well, we're asking for a ban -- a suspension of anyone -- of the visas of anyone coming from those West African countries.
So while there's very few of any direct flights from West Africa, as we saw with the man from Liberia, they can go to a European country and come over. So anyone who has a passport from one of those countries would have their visa suspended and would not be allowed to travel into the United States.
BLITZER: All right, but very quickly, what about American citizens who may be volunteers over there, Doctors Without Borders or Samaritan's Purse...
BLITZER: -- some of the doctors who are there?
Would -- should they be allowed to come back to the United States?
KING: Right. Yes, they should. We should make special provisions for medical personnel going back and forth. Absolutely, because the ultimate resolution to this is going to be a medical solution in West Africa. And I think American doctors will be central to that.
But there's a difference between allowing American doctors and American medical personnel to travel back and forth than just having, you know, random citizens from West Africa coming into the United States.
BLITZER: Peter King, thanks very much for joining us.
KING: Wolf, thank you.
BLITZER: More breaking news coming up. State officials asking dozens of Dallas healthcare workers to stay away from public gatherings for three weeks. And that's not all: we have details of other brand-new restrictions.
BLITZER: News just coming in to THE SITUATION ROOM. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now says it will be releasing updated personal protective equipment guidelines very soon. The guidelines tell healthcare workers around the country how to properly put on and remove protective gowns, masks, eye protection, gloves and other equipment. Critics say the current guidelines don't provide adequate protection.
We're also following other breaking news. A top Dallas health official being monitored for symptoms of Ebola after she was possibly exposed to the virus at the bedside of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States.
CNN's Alina Machado is in Dallas for us. She's got the very latest. Alina, what do you know?
ALINA MACHADO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, that official is one of dozens of healthcare workers here in Dallas who are being asked to restrict their movement while they are still at risk for infection.
MACHADO: CNN confirms that Dallas County's own top epidemiologist is under Ebola watch. Dr. Wendy Chung, who had direct contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, is one of more than 70 healthcare workers currently being monitored for signs of Ebola infection. This as Texas struggles with the backlash over its handling of the disease.
Governor Rick Perry is admitting mistakes and announcing new measures.
GOV. RICK PERRY (R), TEXAS: We must admit, along the way, we have seen ample opportunity for improvement. Considering this was the first time that Ebola has been diagnosed on American shores, it's perhaps -- it's perhaps understandable that mistakes were made. But it's also unacceptable.
MACHADO: Among the new directives, establishment of Ebola treatment centers, improved training for health care workers, and tighter travel restrictions for those at high risk for infection. In conjunction with the Texas State Health Department, Perry also put out a travel ban on those Dallas health care workers who entered the room of the first U.S. Ebola patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. The ban applies to all travel on airplanes, buses and trains.
Those at risk were also asked to sign a pledge to avoid all public locations, including restaurants, grocery stores and theaters.
Perry's press conference comes amid criticism that he has been slow to react and that the state of Texas was not prepared to handle the Ebola threat. Perry returned Thursday from a European trip that began on Thursday. The day nurse Nina Pham became the first American to contract Ebola on U.S. soil.
While he was abroad, a second Dallas nurse was diagnosed with Ebola. Both Texas nurses have been transferred out of state to be cared for in special facilities.
MACHADO: At last check, Nina Pham is stable and resting comfortably. Amber Vinson was transferred earlier this week to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
A family member tells CNN, her fiance is staying at a hotel here in Dallas and that he is self-monitoring for symptoms -- Wolf.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Alina Machado in Dallas, thanks very much.
Let's get some more now from Dr. Brett Giroir. He's the director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response.
Dr. Giroir, thanks very much for joining us.
First of all, do you have an update on the epidemiologist who was in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who died of Ebola in Dallas?
DR. BRETT GIROIR, TEXAS TASK FORCE ON INFECTIOUS DISEASE PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE: Well, thanks, Wolf, for having me. No, I have no specific update on Dr. Chung. She is one of the 70 that's being monitored, ongoing monitoring, with temperature twice a day and face- to-face meetings to assure that if she does develop any symptoms of Ebola she will be immediately and properly handled after that.
BLITZER: What did she do that potentially put her at risk?
GIROIR: Again, I don't have any primary information about that. I only know what was reported, that she was evaluated as having contact with Mr. Duncan, like all of the other 70 workers who were on that list. And she's being appropriately monitored. I have no specific details about her contact.
BLITZER: All right. So I'm sure we're going to get some answers. I know you want some answers pretty quickly on this as well. There's obviously enormous concern.
Amber Vinson, the second nurse who got Ebola in the hospital because of the treatment she was providing to Thomas Eric Duncan, why did it take Amber Vinson getting on two flights to draw up these restrictions for the medical workers there in Dallas to not leave the town, not go on planes, not go anyplace else? What happened? Where did this slip up, in other words? GIROIR: Well, we're still -- really we're still early in the process.
But the information that we had is that she was on self-monitoring and she actually made appropriate calls to see if she could travel -- if she could travel. If she had been told not to travel by the CDC, she would not have traveled. Unfortunately, the information we have, that she was given the OK.
That really led to the state taking proactive action, sending out specific travel restriction orders through Dr. Lakey to all those on monitoring. And as you've reported earlier, also informing them that they're restricted from large public gatherings, et cetera.
So that's the way it went down. We're going to look at that more carefully but that's the best information we have right now.
BLITZER: Do you know if she checked before she left Dallas for Cleveland? We know she checked in Cleveland after she had a slightly elevated fever. But before she even left Dallas, did she check with anyone?
GIROIR: We don't have any specific information on that. And we are looking into that. But I have no specific information whether she checked before she left Dallas.
BLITZER: Her uncle told CNN's Don Lemon last night that she checked with officials in Dallas, she didn't check directly with the CDC. Is that your information as well?
GIROIR: Our best information at this point in time is that she checked with health care professionals from the county who called the CDC. And the CDC made the decision about whether her flight could go or not, whether she could go on that flight or not. Again, that's the best information we have right now. We're going to be looking to that into more detail. But that's the best current information we have. She did not contact anyone from the state health department.
BLITZER: All right. So let's talk a little bit about Dallas-Fort Worth, the airport there. Other Texas airports. Should they have Ebola health screenings?
GIROIR: I think the health screenings have been, you know, implemented or in the process of being implemented. I think we have to be realistic, though, that the health screenings really rely on people self-reporting their contact and whether they have a fever or not. And with a 21-day incubation period like Mr. Duncan, it is very possible to go through screening and not have a fever or undergo a variety of measures to mask that fever and still get in the country.
So I think these screenings are an added benefit. And I think we certainly should do them. We should provide education to people coming. But we can't rely on them to keep people who are potentially infected out of our -- out of our region or out of our state or our country.
BLITZER: Do you expect more Ebola cases in Texas? GIROIR: It is certainly possible while we still have people on the
monitoring list for there to be additional cases. We are coming towards the end of the period and we're not there yet, for the original 48 contacts of Mr. Duncan. But statistically, they are doing, you know, very well and we're all hoping and praying they're out of the period. But there certainly could be more cases.
And as has been said and I've said many times, an epidemic anywhere is a threat to people everywhere. And as long as there's an ongoing Ebola crisis in Africa with thousands and potentially up to hundreds of thousands of cases, we will see Ebola here again in the United States. And we have to be better prepared for it. And that's the purpose of our task force.
Our task force is to really provide scientific information but also to have lessons learned and to make immediate recommendations. And again, one of the ones we said today is, it is not true, we do not believe that every hospital in this country can take care of Ebola patients. And that's why we have recommended and we believe the state is taking action immediately on that to have specified Ebola treatment facilities who are highly prepared, highly skilled, highly practiced and have the best technology to take care of these patients.
BLITZER: That's a good advice. But it's obviously going to take some time to gear up, to create those kinds of facilities. Right now, there are basically four hospitals in the United States that have that capability.
GIROIR: Well, we don't -- we don't really agree with that. We think we have capable centers and I named one today. Now -- at UT medical branch in Galveston, home of a large BSL 4 facility, they've trained thousands of people throughout the world in the appropriate garbing and protection against these kinds of pathogens. And of course we want and we have asked and Governor Perry and myself asked Secretary Burwell today to enhance our cooperation and make sure the CDC works with our people to make sure best practices are shared.
But we believe UTMB Galveston today is a highly qualified facility to take care of Ebola patients. And we have a second facility that we're working with right now that we believe can do that in the very near future.
Again, we want the CDC -- we cherish the collaboration we have. So we want to make sure that it all works and we're sharing best practices. But this is not a long-term thing. We think we have solutions now.
BLITZER: Well, one quick follow-up, Dr. Giroir. Was it under consideration to send those two nurses who contracted Ebola from Mr. Duncan to Galveston, to that hospital in Galveston as opposed to sending these two nurses to Atlanta or Bethesda, Maryland?
GIROIR: It was a consideration. But certainly of all the groups that got together -- and I was part of that group -- we felt it was the best decision at that point to send them to the pre-existing laboratories that have a track record -- facilities that have a track record in taking care of these patients. While they had the capacity, that's the right thing to do.
And we can all take a second, third and fourth look to make sure that our centers are consistent with the best practices. And as you said earlier on, the best practices, even by the CDC, have evolved tremendously over the past two weeks. And what we thought was safe in the guidelines two weeks ago have been dramatically altered.
So this is a time really for all of us to get on the same page to work with the CDC productively. Our experts at Galveston are highly qualified and, again, trained most of the people around the country. So we think that collaboration will assure the best practices. But, no, there was no hesitancy. We wanted to send the current nurses to the Ebola facilities around the country.
BLITZER: Doctor Giroir, thanks very much for joining us.
GIROIR: You're welcome.
BLITZER: Brett Giroir is the director of the Texas Task Force on Infectious Disease Preparedness and Response. Good luck to you, good luck to all the men and women who are dealing with this crisis.
GIROIR: Thank you, sir.
BLITZER: Stay with us. We're following the breaking news on the efforts to keep Ebola from spreading here in the United States.
Also, the reason for today's rare public appearance by the parents of missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham.
BLITZER: As the search for a missing of University of Virginia student moves into a new phase, there was a very poignant moment this afternoon in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Hannah Graham's parents made a rare public appearance, joined the parents of a young woman who vanished on this date in 2009.
Morgan Harrington's body was found several months later. Police now say there's some forensic evidence linking that case to the main suspect in Hannah Graham's disappearance.
Investigative journalist Coy Barefoot is in Charlottesville, Virginia. He's joining us now.
Coy, what are you learning? You're learning some new information about the search for Hannah Graham. What can you tell us?
COY BAREFOOT, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Wolf, it was five weeks ago tonight that Hannah Graham was last seen and it was five years ago tonight that Morgan Harrington was last seen.
I can report here for the first time that sources close to the search are telling me that the search dogs over the last few weeks have indicated, and that's the word we use when a search dog believes that they have found what they're looking for. We should add that I have no confirmation about what they have found or exactly where they have found it. But sources close to the search say that they are encouraged by the indications of some of the search dogs.
We learned that a class from the FBI Academy at Quantico will be out here this weekend in Charlottesville. There will also be a large public event on Sunday called the "Hike for Hannah" that will bring volunteers into a -- over 500-acre park just south of Charlottesville that will allow a number of new volunteers, hundreds of people, to help look for any sign of Hannah Graham.
BLITZER: Now the dogs -- we have not confirmed that this is a legitimate lead right now. This is just a hope, is that what you're saying -- is that what you're saying, Coy? They may have detected something but we have no idea whether or not it's the real -- what they're really looking for, is that right?
BAREFOOT: That's exactly right. The sources told me that they're encouraged that they have some indications from some of the search dogs. I cannot confirm exactly when or where that was. Or -- but I do know, and I can't confirm, that they are going back and looking in some of those locations where the dogs have indicated. And that -- that I do know they continue to do.
BLITZER: All right. I want you to stand by, Coy.
Tom Fuentes is standing by as well. There's more to discuss. We'll take a quick break. Much more on the search for Hannah Graham right after this.
BLITZER: We're following the breaking news in the search for the missing University of Virginia student Hannah Graham. Sources selling the investigative journalist Coy Barefoot that searchers will be digging in a spot indicated by search dogs.
Coy is still with us from Charlottesville. We're also now joined by CNN law enforcement analyst Tom Fuentes, a former assistant director of the FBI.
What's the track record, Tom, of these dogs when they sniff something that may or may not be real?
TOM FUENTES, CNN LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Well, to be honest, Wolf, by experience with the dogs has been mixed in a number of areas. Sometimes they do have great work, and sometimes they have false positives, or they miss something they shouldn't have missed. So we just hope for the best and hope that these dogs are accurate.
BLITZER: Coy, what's the mood over there? Do they think they're on to something?
BAREFOOT: I will tell you this, Wolf, the police who are leading this investigation, the guys who are in charge of the search, they are absolutely convinced that they will find Hannah Graham, and they are committed passionately to this project. And they just want to find her and brick her home to her mom and dad.
You know, the Grahams were out there today on that bridge marking the anniversary of the disappearance of Morgan Harrington five years ago tonight. And I can tell you, on a personal note, as somebody who loves this community, a scholar who teaches at the University of Virginia, as a journalist, but especially as the dad of a little girl, I stood out on that bridge today and wept like a baby to see all of these family members who had come forward to mark this anniversary and to thank this community for their continued commitment to finding these women. And it's something we will absolutely keep doing until we bring them home.
BLITZER: Let me play a little clip. This is Morgan's mother speaking earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
GIL HARRINGTON, MORGAN HARRINGTON'S MOTHER: They say it takes a village to raise a child. I have learned that it also takes a community, a village, to mourn a child.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Very poignant words.
You know, Tom, I believe that there's an intense interest to find Hannah Graham, to do the right thing. It seems, based on what we've been hearing and we've been covering this story pretty closely, authorities are doing all the right things, right?
FUENTES: Yes, they're doing everything they can. This is just so intensely emotional for every family, in the Hannah Graham case and all the prior cases. And it's just terrible that they have to go through this.
BLITZER: And if they're going to continue there's no -- Coy, there's no indication anyone is letting up, right?
BAREFOOT: That's absolutely true. I have heard some sources in law enforcement, they're starting to ask the question, how long can this search keep up? You know, this is the longest running, most complicated search for any missing person in the history of Virginia. And I asked Tim Longo, the chief of the Charlottesville Police Department, I asked him this morning, we were together this morning. And I asked him, how long can you keep this up? And he said, we will keep this up until we find Hannah and bring her home.
BLITZER: All right, Coy Barefoot, we'll continue to check in with you. Thank you very much.
Tom Fuentes, thanks to you, as well.
Coming up, there's breaking news in the fight against Ebola. We're live at the National Institutes of Health where officials reveal a change in the condition of the nurse from Dallas who has the virus. Also we have details of the extraordinary measures now being taken to
quarantine a Dallas hospital worker who is on a cruise ship with thousands of other passengers. We'll be right back.