As the U.S. grapples with the growing coronavirus pandemic, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is lauding America's China travel ban, which was enacted in late January. Still, he says the U.S. didn't do enough to prepare for the outbreak.
"The travel ban with China made a difference," Dr. Tom Frieden, the former CDC director and current head of global health initiative Resolve to Save Lives, told the USA TODAY editorial board and reporters.
Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence credited China travel restrictions as a big factor in helping avoid a Europe-like spread of coronavirus in the United States. The U.S. State Department updated its advisory to "do not travel to China" in late January.
Of the travel ban, Frieden said: "It resulted in a significant delay in the number of people coming in with infection and because of that, that bought time in the U.S. to better prepare. And yet, that time wasn't optimally used."
That time could've been used to make the health care and public health systems better prepared for initiatives like contact tracing and personal protective equipment for health care workers.
The CDC generally provides technical advice to agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security, which it did during the Ebola crisis. But it's up to that individual agency to implement it.
Frieden criticized the focus of the White House press briefings.
"When I hear a press conference that spends close to half of its time discussing border control with Mexico and Canada, which have lower case rates than the U.S. ... and not focusing on scaling up our ICU capacity or systematically organizing emergency production of masks ... this is not a way to run a railroad," Frieden added.
All foreign nationals from China, Iran and certain European countries are barred from entering the United States. This ban includes anyone who visited these countries within the 14 days prior to their U.S. trip.
The State Department has urged Americans not to travel abroad at all.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson, Nicquel Terry Ellis
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Coronavirus: China travel ban 'made a difference' former CDC head says