All last week CDC officials reiterated their conclusion—based on nearly 40 years worth of successfully containing past outbreaks—that you cannot catch the Ebola virus from people who are infected unless they have already begun suffering a fever or started showing other signs of illnesses. Two Dallas County officials took them at their word and wore regular clothes—not Hazmat suits—when visiting the Liberian family that had been quarantined in their northeast Dallas apartment after caring for a family member there who, it later turned out, had been sick with Ebola.
Because no one in the family was running a high temperature—which is measured twice a day—Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Health and Human Services, were at no risk of contracting the disease simply by being in their presence.
Indeed, Jenkins drove the family from the apartment to a more private location—made available by a member of the Dallas faith community—where they will stay for the rest their quarantine, which is due to lift on October 19.
The family is under quarantine precisely because we do not know whether they are infected. The quarantine serves to protect the community at large, but it also protects the family itself. With twice-daily monitoring and regular visits, they are sure to receive intensive care the minute they fall ill, if in fact any of them are infected.
When asked why he didn't don a protective space suit when interacting with the family, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins said he was not taking any special chances. He also drove them on Friday to their new temporary home in his own vehicle.
"I am a married man with an 8-year-old daughter who's having her 9th birthday soon, and I would not be getting into a car with the people that are being monitored," Jenkins said in a CDC press conference on Saturday. "I would not be around in their homes assuring them if it were not safe to do so."
Jenkins and Thompson (and others like them whose names I don't know) are heroes to me because they took compassionate action based on facts and not unfounded fears. Ebola is scary enough without trying to make things worse than they are.
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