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Kaci Hickox Now Quarantined In Maine; NASA Rocket Explosion; Obama Meets With Medical Professionals At White House In Live Press Conference

Aired October 29, 2014 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN HOST: The U.S. military has decided to conduct this mandatory 21-day quarantine for all military troops returning from West Africa's Ebola-infected countries. So given that, why is nurse Kaci Hickox so against quarantining herself inside the comforts for her owned home in Maine for three weeks?

Well, she's a nurse, for one thing, and she knows what she's doing. She knows how to take her temperature, she believes her civil rights are being violated and when asked this morning on the "Today" show, if she's prepared to take action, she alongside of her attorney said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

KACI HICKOX, NURSE: If the restrictions placed on me by the state of Maine are not lifted by Thursday morning, I will go to court to fight for my freedom.

MATT LAUER, HOST, TODAY SHOW: What is the legal grounds (INAUDIBLE)?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, to use a sports metaphor, the ball is in the court of Maine. If they decide to go to court to get a court order and physically apprehend her to quarantine her, we will go to court to challenge it.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: We have now heard from Maine's governor Paul LePage saying he would work with her. That's what he said yesterday. But today after that interview on the "Today" show he issued a statement. Let me read it for you.

The health care worker who is in Ft. Kent has been unwilling to follow the protocols set forth by the Maine CDC and the U.S. centers for disease control for medical workers who had been in contact with Ebola patients. We are exploring all of our option for protecting the health and well-being of this health care worker. Anyone who comes in contact with her, the Fort Kent community and all of Maine.

So Paul Callan, our CNN legal analyst is joining me specialist from civil rights litigation and mediation particularly of medical professionals. You're the perfect person to be talking to, sir.

Going with this sport analogy, the ball is in the court of the state of Maine. If, you know, Kaci decided to leave her home, which would go against the rules in Maine, where does the law fall, on what side?

PAUL CALLAN, CNN LEGAL CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the law tends to fall on the side of public health officials who can order a quarantine where there is a communicable disease or infectious disease that might affect the public. And the courts have been very deferential through the years to local public health authorities in formulating these rules. Because remember, when you have a pandemic, it is kind of a moving target. I mean, the science gets better about how long the incubation period is or how long you have to lock people up and you can't have the legislature enacting a new law constantly.

BALDWIN: Even if she says, I am asymptomatic, therefore, I am not contagious, I have been working overseas with Doctors without Borders, you know, (INAUDIBLE) eyes as far as personal protective equipment, et cetera, this is ridiculous?

CALLAN: Well, and what happens when the next person comes into the state of Maine and says, well, I know a lot of about Medicine, too. And even though I was in West Africa, I am asymptomatic. You know, when she arrived in the United States, they used a monitor to take her temperature by measuring skin temperature and she had a fever. Now she says, well, I was flush and there was an explanation for that. But there was a good faith basis for putting her in quarantine originally.

Now, yes, health authorities can look at her case now and say something, you know something, she's probably not contagious and we can let her out and avoid of all of this. But if she goes to court, I think she loses. She has got a good lawyer, Norman Siegel. But, you know something, I think they lose in court because a judge is not going to take a chance on an epidemic because a nurse gets mad that she's in quarantine. And she's setting a bad example, I think, for the rest of the public in the event that there's a lot of quarantine going on across the United States if this thing gets out of hand.

BALDWIN: All of this happening as I speak, the president is hosting a number of doctors, some of whom have just come over from West Africa and are shaking hands in the White House. Just a point I wanted to make.

Before I let you go, though, pivoting to a different part of the story, which is then you have the nurses who work say here in New York City at Bellevue hospital treating the doctor who came over who has Ebola, apparently according to some reports, they have been discriminated against, they have gone to restaurants and restaurants say, don't come in here. We don't want you in here. If that were to happen to some of these nurses down in Dallas who had Ebola and who are now Ebola-free, and they say you know what, this isn't fair. This is discrimination. Would they have a case?

CALLAN: Well, that's a very interesting question because I can tell you, for instance, in New York. New York bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion, gender, a whole bunch of other things. It never did on the basis of occupation, health care worker. Although, there was one law that came in that had to do with lawyers. Landlords would not rent to lawyers. Now, why would that be, Brooke? Because we would -- yes, we are. We are great tenants, but of course, we know sue people, right?

BALDWIN: Yes, you do.

CALLAN: And so, they had an occupational bar, landlord say no, you are a lawyer. I'm not renting to you. So New York passed a law now that says you cannot discriminate on the basis of occupation. So I think that you probably could bring a case in New York if you were being discriminated against because you're a health care worker.

BALDWIN: OK. Paul Callan, thank you very much.

CALLAN: Thank you.

BALDWIN: As I mentioned a second ago, the president is meeting with these different doctors, including our owned chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta at the White House, just focusing a lot more on Ebola. Live pictures inside the White House as we expecting the president any minute now to brief the members of the media, to brief the public on how that meeting went. So we are going to stand by for that. As soon as it happens, we'll bring it to you live.

Meantime, let me show you another picture. Just absolutely stunning, this unmanned rocket, here you go, heading to the ISS, the International Space Station, explodes. Listen to the crowd react. Seconds after liftoff last night, no ones with injured, thankfully. This is an unmanned rocket. But how will this impact the future of private space flights? That's next.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BALDWIN: I know all of my fellow space geeks gasped when a rocket worth more than $200 million exploded into this ball of fire. Here it was.

(VIDEO CLIP PLAYING)

BALDWIN: It's an unmanned rocket so no one was injured but it happened in just six seconds after takeoff from the Virginia coast. NASA did not build this rocket. This contractor called Orbital Space made the rocket. But it left a lot of you wondering, you know, should NASA keep relying on private company to transport cargo, which apparently was part of this rocket among other science experiments (INAUDIBLE) last hour. Pretty bombed. It went up to smoke. Eventually, they are taking people on the space. Or should the government-run NASA return to its craft building roots.

Joining me now, fellow (INAUDIBLE) because I have just discovers, correspondent Rachel Crane.

And the question is, you know, should this really shake confidence for private space enterprises?

RACHEL CRANE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Right. Well, what I don't think the public realizes is that the private sector has shouldered a lot of the responsibility. You have executing NASA's missions since the genesis of the space agency. BALDWIN: People don't realize that.

CRANE: No. People don't realize that. I mean, they have been subcontracting to the private sector like Boeing and Lockheed Martin since the very beginning. So this isn't really a new relationship between the private and the public sector. In fact, Boeing is the lead contractor on the international space station. So an incident like this is not really going to shake that relationship.

BALDWIN: So what does this mean for orbital sciences or even a space x?

CRANE: Right. Well, you know, Orbital Sciences is certainly tarnishing the reputation. I mean, as you see the visual and credibility, it's alarming to see a rocket blow up. But this was supposed to be the third of eight missions that NASA has contracted with them to run cargo mission to the international space station. Contract was nearly $2 billion.

Now, in that contract, there are stipulations for accidents like this and there is no reason to believe that that contract or the other contract that NASA has with Space X, which is the other private company that is running these cargo mission is in jeopardy, as a result of this accident.

BALDWIN: Let's just remind people, just to finally and quickly here, when we look at this rocket, this was taking what, cargo.

CRANE: Cargo, food to the astronauts. You know, so it was nearly over 5,000 pounds of cargo, 1300 pounds of food. But the astronauts onboard the International Space Station are safe until well into next year. So they have enough resources on board. They will be fine even though, you know, we were all quite alarmed by this.

BALDWIN: Rachel Crane, thank you so much.

CRANE: Thank you.

BALDWIN: Let me pull away from that. It's a packed room here in the White House. President Obama -- Kent Brantly, survivor of Ebola treated at Emory. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN LIVE PRESSER COVERAGE)

DR. KENT BRANTLY, EBOLA SURVIVOR: The first unfortunate sole to suffer this courage (ph) of Ebola disease in West Africa. Since that time, more than 10,000 people have contracted the virus and more than 5,000 have died in eight countries. The Medical professionals of the three nations hardest hit by this epidemic, Liberia, New Guinea, and Sierra Leone, have fought with valiant effort against this menace but they need the help of the international community to turn the tide of this devastating outbreak.

Many members of this audience have already offered themselves in sacrificial service to the people of West Africa and others are preparing to go. It is my distinct honor today to thank these brave individuals for the gift of their love to their fellow human beings, for putting the needs of others above their own. The world owes them a debt of gratitude.

But the struggle is far from over. More Medical personnel are desperately needed. At this time, perhaps more than any other, we feel the impact of our position as citizens of not only the United States of America but of citizens of the world. We must strive together for the good of all mankind to put an end to this disease.

In times of world changes tragedy, we have often recognized the office of the president of the United States of America as not only the leader of this, our own country, but as an international leader representing the best interests of us all as global citizens. It is my privilege at this time to introduce President Barack Obama who will share some remarks.

(APPLAUSE)

BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you. Good afternoon, everybody. And thank you, Dr. Brantly, not just for the introduction but for your extraordinary work to help save lives in Africa and here at home.

As many of you know, I welcomed Kent and his wonderful wife, Amber, to the White House last month. And I was so moved by their deep faith, a faith that grounds their unwavering commitment to service that I thought it would be a good idea to have him back. He's gained a little weight since I last saw him. So Amber, you've been making sure he's heating properly.

But Kent and Amber, you are an inspiration to me and people around the world and on behalf of all of us, thank you so much. Thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: As I said yesterday, we know that the best way to protect Americans from Ebola is to stop the outbreak at its source. And we're honored to be joined today by some of the extraordinary American health workers who are on the front lines of the fight in West Africa. We just had an opportunity to meet, to talk, for me to hear about their service in truly challenging conditions. And some of these men and women have recently returned. Others are heading their shortly. But all of them have signed up to leave their homes and their loved ones to head straight into the heart of the Ebola epidemic.

Like our military men and women deploying to West Africa, they do this for no other reason than their own sense of duty, their sense of purpose, their sense of serving a cause greater than themselves. We need to call them what they are, which is American heroes. They deserve our gratitude and they deserve to be treated with dignity and with respect.

Over the past few weeks, I have met and spoken with doctors and nurses who have treated Ebola patients, and includes some who have been diagnosed and have beaten Ebola themselves, like Kent and like nurse, Nina Pham, who was proud to welcome at the oval office. I want to say to all of the doctors and nurses out there what I have

told all of the doctors and nurses today. Each one of you studied Medicine because you wanted to save lives. The world needs you more than ever. The Medical professionals and public health workers serving in Africa are a shining example of what America means to the world, of what is possible when America leads.

I said this at the U.N. general assembly, when disease or disaster strikes anywhere in the world, the world calls us. And the reason they call us is because of the men and women, like the ones who are here today. They respond with skill and professionalism and courage and dedication. And it's because of the determination and skill and dedication and patriotism of folks like this that I'm confident we will contain and ultimately snuff out this outbreak of Ebola because that's what we do.

A lot of people talk about American exceptionalism. I'm a firm believer in American exceptionalism. You know why I am? It's because of folks like this. It is because we don't run and hide when there's a problem. It is because we don't react to our fears but, instead, we respond with commonsense and skill and courage. That's the best of our history. Not fear, not hysteria, not information, we racked clearly and firmly even when others are losing their heads. That's part of the reason why we are affected. That's part of the reason why people look to us.

And because of the work that's being done by folks like this and by folks who are right now, as we speak, in the three affected countries, we're already seeing a difference.

I just had a chance to be in the situation room. Samantha Power, our U.N. ambassador, has been traveling through other countries talking to professionals and seeing what is on the ground. And she was describing how, because of our military, we're already setting up Ebola treatment units ahead of schedule. We're already setting up supply lines and she described how a Chinese airplane was landing in facilities that we had helped organized. And Liberian and Chinese and American folks are pulling supplies off and deploying it. Because we had set up the infrastructure and gotten there early, the world is now starting to respond.

Some of the labs that we've set up are cutting the test to see whether somebody is positive for Ebola from what was as long as seven days now to less than a day which means people know sooner whether they have it. They're able to get isolated quicker. They are less likely to spread it. If they don't have it, they can be with their families faster, which means there's less fear and anxiety.

Safe burial practices have doubled in Monrovia. And we know the way folks were treating the deceased was a major contributor to spreading the disease. Because of the leadership that we've shown on the ground, the mood in Liberia's changed. People have a greater sense of confidence that this can be dealt with and suddenly you're seeing Liberian nationals who are increasingly willing to work as part of the public health teams. So we're having not just effect not by what we can do directly, but

also by a change of mindset in the countries affected and around the globe. That's what's happening because of American leadership. And it is not abstract. It is people who are willing to go there at significant sacrifice to make a difference. That's American exceptionalism. That's what we should be proud of. That's who we are.

Now, none of this means that the problem has been solved. I don't want anybody to lose the sense of urgency. In those countries that are affected this is still a severe, significant outbreak and it is going to take some time for these countries to battle back. We've got a long way to go.

But I do want Americans to understand why this is so important. This is not just charity although Ken's faith is driving him to do that, and I'd like to think that, that sense of faith and Grace motivates all of us. But this is also practical. It has to do with our own self-interest.

If we are not dealing with this problem there, it will come here. Now we have a responsibility to look out for our health workers as well as they look out for us. That's why on Monday, the CDC announced new monitoring guidelines that are sensible, based on science, that are crafted in consultation with the people that are actually going there to do the work and they are tailored to the unique circumstances of each health care worker.

But we have to keep in mind that if we're discouraging our health care workers who are prepared to make these sacrifices from traveling to these places in need, then we're not doing our job in terms of looking after our own public health and safety. What we need right now is these shot troops that are out there leading globally. We can't discourage that. We have to encourage it and applaud it.

And I want America to understand. The truth is that until we stop this outbreak in West Africa we may continue to see individual cases in America in the weeks and months ahead because that's the nature of today's world. We can't hermetically seal ourselves off.

The nature of international travel and movement means that the only way to assure that we are safe is to make sure that we have dealt with the disease where right now it is most acute. So, yes, we are likely to see a possible case elsewhere outside of these countries. And that's true whether or not you adopt a travel ban, whether or not you adopt a quarantine. It's the nature of diseases as long as Ebola exists in the world, no one can promise that there won't be any more cases in America or any place else.

To prevent its spread and ultimately to keep Americans safe we have to go to the source while preparing for the few cases that we see here, and protecting our health care workers who are treating patients both here at home and abroad.

Now, the good news is that our Medical system is better prepared for any additional cases and we'll continue to work with hospitals and state and local public health agencies to improve that preparedness every single day. And although coordinating all that nationally as well as internationally is a process and there are constant tweaks and modifications as lessons are learned. It's all based on 40 years of experience in dealing with this disease. It's not all new, and it will get done.

So I guess my biggest message, and I'm pretty sure this is a message that all of the folks behind me including the ones with the white coats will confirm, is that it's critical that we remain focused on the facts and on the science.

Keep in mind that of the seven Americans treated for Ebola so far, most of them while serving in West Africa, all seven have survived. Right now the only American still undergoing treatment is Dr. Craig Spencer who contracted the disease abroad while working to protect others. And we salute his service. And we're getting him the best care, as well.

But we know how to treat this disease, and now that the West African nations of Senegal and Nigeria have been declared Ebola-free, we know that this disease can be contained and defeated if we stay vigilant and committed and America continues to lead the fight.

We have hundreds of Americans from across the country, nurses, doctors, public health workers, soldiers, engineers, mechanics who are putting themselves on the front lines of this fight. They represent citizenship, patriotism and public service at its best. They make huge sacrifices to protect this country that we love. And when they come home they deserve to be treated properly. They deserve to be treated like the heroes that they are.

They're Americans like Dr. Dan Chertoff who is here today. Dan's an officer in the U.S. public health service who took a lead from his position at the national institutes of health to volunteer with doctors without borders in Liberia where he cared for over 200 Ebola cases.

Dan, thank you.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: Dan's right here.

(APPLAUSE)

OBAMA: There are Americans like Katie (INAUDIBLE). Her father, James, was the head of the CDC task force on HIV-AIDS when that disease first emerged. So she studied to become a public expert in her own right. She decided to chart her own course most recently in a Canoe. We recently read how she and her CDC disease detective team traveled to a village in Sierra Leone that was so remote that they had to take Canoes. And when they met the chief who met them wore a Pittsburgh Steelers cap.

So today, Katie has completed her mission. She's on her way home. And I can promise you that thanks to Katie and her team, America's mark on that village, our legacy for future generations there will go far beyond sports teams.

We're talking about Americans like Captain Calvin Edwards, father of four, works at the FDA in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. But like Dr. Dan Chertoff, he's also an officer in the U.S. public health service. We read about how on his 29th wedding anniversary, carrying a pillow from home and a copy of the new testament, he takes on deployments.

He left for training to overseas a team in Iberia. Not before he -- but before he did he make sure that his wife doesn't rose (ph). And as he boarded the plane to Monrovia, Captain Edwards reminded his team of the oath to defend our country.

And they responded with a rousing rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner." And they're all there right now making us proud.

Of the 69 public health service officers, like Dr. Chertow (ph) and Captain Edwards, who were chosen for this mission, not a single one declined, not one. They all stepped forward.

I know that, with all the headlines and all the news, that people are scared. I know that Ebola has concerned them. But the reason I'm so proud of this country is because, when there are times where we need to step up to do the right thing, we do the right thing.

That's who we are. That's what we do. No other nation is doing as much to help in West Africa as the United States of America. When I hear people talking about American leadership and then are promoting policies that would avoid leadership and have us running in the opposite direction and hiding under the covers, it makes me a little frustrated.

We're at our best when we are standing up and taking responsibility, even when it requires us making sacrifices, especially when it requires us making sacrifices. And it's how we help others around the world that's important.

And it's not just massive deployments of troops and equipment, as proud as we are of that, but it's also our skill and our compassion and painstaking effort, and our ability to learn from mistakes that are made, and our ability to work through problems that are really complicated, and to see something through, and not lose our heads, to have grace under pressure, and apply ourselves with slow, steady effort, the kind that change and progress requires.

That's what I want to see from us, the pride of a nation that always steps up and gets the job done. America has never been defined by fear. We are defined by courage and passion and hope and selflessness and sacrifice and a willingness to take on challenges when others can't and others will not, and ordinary Americans who risk their own safety to help those in need and who inspire, thereby, the example of others, all in the constant pursuit of building a better world, not just for ourselves, but for people in every corner of the earth.

And that's how I know we're going to manage to contain the disease in America, because like -- of the heroes like the ones who are here today. That's how I know we will fight this disease's spread, as more nurses and medics and lab technicians and health professionals join the effort.

That's how I know that ultimately we will end the outbreak in West Africa and we will eliminate the threat that it poses to the world. That's how I know that we will not only save thousands, tens of thousands, potentially hundreds of thousands of lives, but also how I know that we will remain true to our ideals and our values.

So I put those on notice who think that we should hide from these problems. That's not who we are. That's not who I am. That's not who these folks are. This is America. We do things differently.

Thank you. God bless you. God bless the United States of America.

(APPLAUSE)