To hug or not to hug Ebola patient was never a question for Obama

Posted at 10:18 PM, Oct 24, 2014
and last updated 2014-10-24 22:22:28-04

WASHINGTON (CNN) — To hug or not to hug? That was not a question for President Obama, who invited previously Ebola-stricken nurse Nina Pham to the White House Friday for a visit and a hug in the Oval Office.

As soon as doctors at the National Institutes of Health, where Pham was being treated, determined that the Dallas nurse was Ebola free, White House officials arranged to have the health care worker driven to the White House for a meeting with Obama.

Asked whether it was too soon for Pham to meet with the President, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest noted that five medical tests had showed the nurse was no longer carrying the deadly virus.

“He was not at all concerned about any risk that would be associated with him showing his gratitude to her by hugging her,” Earnest said.

The only consideration, Earnest added, was whether Pham was feeling well enough for the trip after her lengthy hospitalization. After observing Pham’s remarks upon leaving the NIH, White House officials decided to extend the invitation.

“I think the only question that people have is whether or not she would be up for making the trip down here to the White House,” Earnest said.

Pham’s mother and sister, as well as Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and NIH Drs. Anthony Fauci, Richard Davey Jr., and Cliff Lane all attended the Oval Office meeting between the once-afflicted nurse and the President.

“Let’s give a hug for the cameras,” Obama said to Pham.

Despite a new case of Ebola in New York City, the White House portrayed Pham’s release from the hospital as a turning point in the U.S. government’s efforts to contain the virus.

“The fact that she has been treated and released, I think is terrific news — and I think answers the prayers of many people across the country today,” Earnest said.