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In East Dallas Neighborhood Where Ebola Patient Lives, Residents Remain Calm

Lauren Silverman
The scene in East Dallas Monday morning at the apartment complex where the second Ebola patient lives. She's being treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

It was business as usual Monday morning in the East Dallas neighborhood where the first patient to contract Ebola in the U.S. lives.

On Marquita Avenue, garbage trucks picked up trash and large oak branches knocked down by Sunday night’s storm. People walked their dogs, and pushed strollers past brick houses decorated with Halloween spider webs.

Neighbor Tommy Hicks says the Ebola situation isn’t scary.

“Not scary at all really,” he said. “We’re not in any way frightened by the disease. It’s incredibly hard to get, and I feel completely safe in our neighborhood.”

That’s partly because the city of Dallas responded fast to the news of a second infection -- a health care worker who treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who brought Ebola to Dallas. Duncan was treated at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where he died on Wednesday.

“I don’t think they knew what they were dealing with the first time around,” Hicks said. “This particular incident -- I can’t imagine them doing it any better than they have.”

On Sunday, the usual sounds of dogs barking and baby strollers in the M Streets were silenced by helicopters circling overhead.

Below, cameras zoomed in on a small, 1930s brick apartment building with two large live oaks out front. A yellow hazardous waste barrel sat in the front lawn.

Mary Jud and her husband live around the corner from the building. On Sunday, they got a 7:30 a.m. phone call from the city saying there was someone who had tested positive for Ebola.

Rather than be upset about the early morning call, Jud was grateful.

“It made me feel very comfortable and very safe that the city is taking care of its neighbors,” Jud said.

The 5700 block of Marquita is just four miles south of the Vickery Meadow apartment complex where Duncan first showed symptoms of Ebola. 

At the nearby Café Brazil, general manager Joshua Lloyd helped clear plates of migas and eggs. He said business hadn’t slowed down since the news.

“We got really busy in here on Sunday,” he said.

Lloyd also lives in the neighborhood and says he’s not worried.

“I know they were knocking on neighbors’ doors, making them aware of the situation so that no one was freaking out, and I think they did it properly,” he said.  

Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings quickly arrived on Marquita Avenue Sunday morning. The city had already blanketed doorsteps with information packets about Ebola and made calls to houses within a four-block radius of the contaminated apartment.

At a Sunday press conference at Presbyterian, Rawlings said since the city got the news early Sunday morning, there was a rush to make sure residents feel safe.

“The Dallas Fire and Rescue Hazmat team has cleaned up the common areas and decontaminated any of the open areas of the apartment complex,” Rawlings said. “We have knocked on every door in that block and talked to every single person that came to the door.”

A Hazmat team also decontaminated the car the patient drove in, as well as the hospital parking lot and handrails that could have been infected. The inside of the health care worker’s apartment was cleaned Sunday night.

It took five days for Dallas County to decontaminate the apartment where Duncan, the first Ebola patient, was staying. That delay was widely criticized. Nearly 50 people who were in contact with Duncan are still being monitored for any signs of Ebola. Now, Dallas County Commissioner Clay Jenkins says there will be extra monitoring for the 18 hospital workers who cared for Duncan.

Lauren Silverman was the Health, Science & Technology reporter/blogger at KERA News. She was also the primary backup host for KERA’s Think and the statewide newsmagazine  Texas Standard. In 2016, Lauren was recognized as Texas Health Journalist of the Year by the Texas Medical Association. She was part of the Peabody Award-winning team that covered Ebola for NPR in 2014. She also hosted "Surviving Ebola," a special that won Best Long Documentary honors from the Public Radio News Directors Inc. (PRNDI). And she's won a number of regional awards, including an honorable mention for Edward R. Murrow award (for her project “The Broken Hip”), as well as the Texas Veterans Commission’s Excellence in Media Awards in the radio category.