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At Dallas Apartment Where Ebola Patient Visited, Council Member Works To Ease Fears

In the northeast Dallas neighborhood of Vickery Meadow, where Ebola patient Thomas Duncan stayed before he was hospitalized, residents went about their day Friday as normally as possible. Dallas City Council member Jennifer Staubach Gates, whose district includes the neighborhood, has been trying to ease fears of residents.

Gates is also a registered nurse.

“I wasn’t initially scared about the disease, but I knew we were in new territory. It hadn’t been diagnosed in the United States and now here it was in my backyard,” Gates said.

Since Tuesday, she has been in and out of Vickery Meadow, a diverse neighborhood of refugees and immigrants that speak more than 30 different languages.

“They just have questions and we’re trying to disseminate information, but it’s pretty calm,” Gates said.

On Friday morning, she greeted elders and waved at teenagers. From the conversations she’s had with residents, they’re less concerned about the Ebola virus.

“They’re worried about the image of being from Vickery Meadow and will there be a stigma?” Gates said.

This is vulnerable population, Gates says, and she doesn’t want them to get taken advantage of in this kind of emergency.

Gates works closely with Sally Nuran, the property manager of the Ivy apartments, where Duncan stayed and his four relatives lived. On Friday afternoon, the relatives were moved to a home elsewhere in Dallas and a hazmat crew began to decontaminate the apartment.

“Everybody has fears,” Nuran said. “It’s something really new to us for everybody and for us … it is a shock.”

Nuran says everything is moving so fast, too fast, scaring the family and tenants.

“Media was everywhere,” she said. “It was hard to control the media and get comfort to the families that are living here.”

Leaflets about the facts of Ebola are being translated into eight different language – Burmese, Urdu and Russian.

Security officers are visible in parking lots. Refugee and resettlement agencies are helping, too.

The goal, Nuran says, is to get residents back into their daily routines.

“We want them to get back to life, we don’t want them to be inside that apartment, we want them to go back to school, don’t’ have any fear.”

Until then, she and Gates will continue to talk daily to meet the needs of this unique community.

Doualy Xaykaothao is a newscaster and reporter for NPR, based in Culver City. She returned to NPR for this role in 2018, and is responsible for writing, producing, and delivering national newscasts. She also reports on breaking news stories for NPR.