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Dallas County Tells 75 Presbyterian Workers To Stay Home

Dozens of Dallas health care workers who had contact with the man who died from the Ebola virus have been asked to sign legal documents in which they'll agree to stay home.

The documents ask 75 health care workers to agree not to go to public places or use mass transit. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins says the agreements are binding legal documents that can be enforced with a variety of remedies, though he declined to elaborate to the Associated Press.

[For Friday's Ebola developments, click here.

6:33 p.m. Thursday: Nina Pham boards plane to Maryland    

Nina Pham has boarded a plane at Dallas Love Field. She walked out of the ambulance that transported her there. Pham is expected to arrive in Bethesda, Maryland, at 10 p.m. Central time. Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital has reported that she is in good condition.

6 p.m. Thursday: Nina Pham en route to Love Field

Nina Pham, the first nurse to be infected with Ebola in the U.S., is about to board an ambulance from Texas Presbyterian Hospital. It will take her to Dallas Love Field. From there, she will board a CDC plane to Maryland to be treated at the National Institutes of Health.

Texas Health Presbyterian is asking Dallas commuters passing by Pham's ambulance to honk their horns in her support.

Watch the live stream here: 


5 p.m. CDC expands Ebola investigation

The Associated Press reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is expanding its Ebola investigation to include passengers on the Friday flight Amber Joy Vinson took from Dallas to Cleveland.

This is in addition to the passengers on the Monday flight Vinson took back to Dallas.

Dr. Chris Braden of the CDC said health officials are investigating whether Vinson had symptoms as far back as Saturday. He says they can’t rule out that “she may have had the start of her illness on Friday.” 

Frontier Airlines says it is notifying passengers on seven flights that either flew with a Vinson or on a later flight using the same plane. The airline said it was telling those passengers to contact the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if they were concerned. The CDC has downplayed risk of exposure to other passengers.

Frontier grounded the plane on Wednesday after the CDC notified the airline Vinson had tested positive for Ebola. The plane is currently out of service in a hangar at the Denver airport.

Update, 3:39 p.m.: Parents of four Garland students were on the same plane as Vinson

The Garland school district sent a letter to parents today, notifying them that parents of four Garland students were on the same plane as Amber Joy Vinson. The students come from two schools: North Garland High School and Schrade Middle School.

Here’s more from Garland Superintendent Bob Morrison:

All parents have been in contact with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Officials from the CDC have assured family members their seating location aboard the flight was in a no-risk area, no quarantine is necessary, and all students are not being withheld from school. Both families are cooperating entirely with the organization. Administration at North Garland and Schrade are also communicating with the parents. Additionally, the district is working with CDC, Dallas County Health & Human Services (DCHHS), and city officials from Garland and Rowlett. There are no other family members at any other GISD campus. It is important to know individuals are not contagious until symptoms appear. GISD is taking proactive measures at both campuses - increased cleaning throughout the day, an intensive deep-clean this evening and an expert cleaning this weekend. Additional disinfectant measures are being performed at all GISD campuses.

Update, 3:35 p.m.: Dallas County commissioners won’t issue a disaster declaration for the county.

Commissioners just wrapped up their meeting and decided not to issue a disaster declaration for Dallas County.

The proposal had said Dallas County "has the potential to suffer widespread or severe damage, injury, loss or threat of life resulting from the Ebola virus."

Commissioners say the declaration is not needed at this time and that city, county and state agencies are working well together to contain Ebola and manage the government response to the outbreak.

Instead, they said they planned to provide written agreements to the 75 health care workers being monitored for Ebola, asking them to avoid public transportation and places.

County Judge Clay Jenkins said some have already signed the agreement that will keep every possible contact away from the public until the 21-day incubation period ends. They’ll let health officials check on them twice a day.

 “Part of what we’re doing,” said Jenkins, “deals with people in the public being afraid they’ll bump into an asymptomatic disease contact while getting a carton of milk at a Kroger. So we’re not going to let these people go to a Kroger for 21 days” 

Jenkins says health care workers, whom he calls hometown heroes, want to follow the agreement that will keep them off public transportation and away from public places. He doesn’t expect anyone to reject it. 

3:02 p.m.: "I'm so thankful for the outpouring of love and support," Nina Pham says 

Nina Pham, the first Dallas nurse to contract Ebola, released a new statement, expressing appreciation for her coworkers who’ve cared for her while in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

“I’m so thankful for the outpouring of love and support from friends and family, my coworkers and complete strangers,” Pham said. “I feel very blessed, and have gained strength from their support.”

Dr. Gary Weinstein, chief of pulmonology and critical care medicine, said the hospital is glad that Pham has improved so much in such a short amount of time.

Presbyterian said moving Pham to the National Institutes of Health is “in the best interest” of Pham, hospital employees and the community.

2:23 p.m.: Moving Nina Pham to Maryland is "the right decision," Presbyterian says

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital says it worked with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Texas Department of Health Services to evaluate options for Nina Pham, the first Dallas nurse to contract Ebola.

“We believe that transferring Nina to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the right decision,” Presbyterian said in a statement. “With many of the medical professionals who would normally staff the intensive care unit sidelined for continuous monitoring, it is in the best interest of the hospital employees, nurses, physicians and the community to give the hospital an opportunity to prepare for whatever comes next.”

Pham is expected to be moved to NIH in suburban Washington later today. The second Dallas nurse to contract Ebola, Amber Joy Vinson, was moved to Atlanta Wednesday night. She is being treated at Emory University Hospital.

Both the NIH and Emory are specially equipped to treat Ebola patients.

1:55 p.m.: "Demonstrated failures" in government response to Ebola, House committee chair says

U.S. health officials said Thursday they still don't know how two Dallas nurses caught Ebola from a patient, as criticism increased from lawmakers who questioned whether the nation is prepared to stop the deadly virus from spreading in the country.

In a hearing on Capitol Hill, the chairman of a House committee cited "demonstrated failures" in the government's response. Rep. Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania said the "trust and credibility of the administration and government are waning as the American public loses confidence each day." Seated before him were leaders of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health.

Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the CDC, testified that despite the latest incidents, "we remain confident that our public health and health care systems can prevent an Ebola outbreak here."

Frieden said investigators are trying to figure out how the nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas caught the virus from the Liberian patient, Thomas Eric Duncan. In the meantime, he said, their cases show a need to strengthen the infection-control procedures that "allowed for exposure to the virus."

Duncan's death and the sick health care workers in the U.S. and Spain "intensify our concern about the global health threat," said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

In Washington, President Barack Obama directed his administration to respond in a "much more aggressive way" to the threat and, for a second day in a row, canceled his out-of-town trips to stay in town and monitor the Ebola response. He was calling foreign leaders and U.S. lawmakers to discuss what more must be done, the White House said, and bringing his Cabinet members together on the matter.

11:35 a.m.: Dallas nurse to be moved to National Institutes of Health

The first Dallas nurse to contract Ebola will be moved to a specialized facility in Maryland. 

The Associated Press is reporting, and NPR has confirmed, that Nina Pham will be taken later today from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The NIH facility is one of four specially-equipped units in the country to treat Ebola.

The second Dallas nurse to contract Ebola, Amber Joy Vinson, was transported Wednesday night to another specially-equipped facility, Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.

The first nurse to contract Ebola is being moved to Maryland to make room in case there are other Ebola patients in Dallas, County Judge Clay Jenkins told KERA. Read more about that here.

Watch Live: CDC, Presbyterian officials testify about Dallas Ebola response

Health and government officials are expected to testify before a Congressional committee regarding the response to Ebola in Dallas. We are livestreaming it below.

Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream

10:52 a.m.: Dallas County commissioners consider issuing disaster declaration

Dallas County commissioners are considering issuing a disaster declaration. Commissioners scheduled an emergency meeting at 2 p.m. Thursday. 

The proposal says Dallas County "has the potential to suffer widespread or severe damage, injury, loss or threat of life resulting from the Ebola virus."

County Judge Clay Jenkins says the declaration could include public travel restrictions on medical personnel exposed to Ebola. The measure could also mean more government assistance. 

10:37 a.m. Thursday: Presbyterian offering isolated rooms to employees who treated Ebola patients

Presbyterian sent out a statement Wednesday night offering rooms to employees “to avoid even the remote possibility of any potential exposure to family, friends and the broader public.”

The hospital notes it’s not a medical recommendation, but for employees’ peace of mind and comfort.

The hospital reminded employees who treated Ebola patients that they are not contagious “unless and until they demonstrate any symptoms.”

“We understand this is a frightening situation for them and their families,” the statement says. “We will be coordinating this effort with the county monitors who are already regularly checking on their temperatures for any sign of infection.”

10:15 a.m. Thursday: "We made mistakes" with Ebola response, Presbyterian says

A top Texas Health Presbyterian official acknowledges the hospital has made mistakes in how it treated the first Ebola patient that died last week.

The hospital says despite its best intentions, it did not correctly diagnose Thomas Eric Duncan. He contracted Ebola in Liberia and flew to Dallas to visit relatives. On Sept. 25, Duncan went to Presbyterian, but was eventually sent home. He returned via ambulance on Sept. 28, where he was placed in isolation. He died last week.

“We made mistakes,” according to prepared testimony from Dr. Daniel Varga, the chief clinical officer with Texas Health Resources. “We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry.”

A U.S. House Committee will hold a hearing Thursday that examines the public health response to the Ebola outbreak.

“It’s hard for me to put into words how we felt when our patient Thomas Eric Duncan lost his struggle with Ebola on October 8,” the advance testimony from Varga states.

Presbyterian also says that it “inadvertently provided some information that was inaccurate and had to be corrected.”

“No doubt that was unsettling to a community that was already concerned and confused, and we have learned from that experience as well.”

The hearing by the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations is scheduled for 11 a.m. Central time in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is expected to testify. So is Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. 

A Republican House chairman says government health officials in the United States made "false assumptions" about the country's level of preparedness to handle Ebola cases here.

Congressman Tim Murphy of Pennsylvania says it appears hospitals were not ready, people were not properly trained and health care workers did not have the proper protective garb.

He says such false assumptions "can get you in a lot of trouble."

Murphy was set to chair the House oversight committee hearing Thursday. He commented on MSNBC ahead of time.

In prepared testimony, CDC head Dr. Thomas Frieden says he remains confident Ebola is not a significant threat in the U.S.

10:05 a.m. Thursday: "We never talked about Ebola" before first patient arrived, Presbyterian nurse tells NBC 

A Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital nurse said hospital workers were not prepared to handle Ebola before Thomas Eric Duncan arrived in late September. The nurse, Briana Aguirre, spoke with NBC’s “Today” show Thursday morning.

“I can no longer defend my hospital at all,” Aguirre said. “I believe they should have known that they were not handling this well, this Ebola crisis. They should have known it was getting out of hand. They should have called in more help.”

Read more here.

Watch an excerpt of the NBC interview:


9:48 a.m. Thursday: CDC told Vinson she could board a flight to Dallas

CDC spokesman David Daigle says Amber Joy Vinson spoke with the CDC official responsible for monitoring her health before she boarded the flight Monday.

Daigle says the 29-year-old Vinson reported her temperature was below 100.4 degrees and she had no symptoms. Ebola sufferers aren't contagious until they show symptoms.

The official said she could board Frontier Airlines Flight 1143.

Vinson is the second Dallas nurse to become infected after treating a Liberian man who died of Ebola last week.

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden says Vinson traveled to Ohio at the weekend before she knew that her colleagues had been diagnosed with Ebola.

9:02 a.m. Thursday: Hospital defends its Ebola protocols when treating Duncan

Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital on Thursday said the facility followed federal guidelines in treating Thomas Eric Duncan. The Liberian man last month flew to Dallas to visit family and friends. He was admitted to the hospital Sept. 28.

The statement follows criticism from a national nurses union. National Nurses United, citing unnamed nurses from Presbyterian, said that nurses at the Dallas hospital weren’t properly trained to handle Ebola. The union claims and that Duncan’s lab samples were sent through the hospital’s tube system without being sealed. KERA hasn’t been able to confirm the allegations.

The hospital statement says Duncan was moved directly to a private room and isolated. Staffers wore appropriate personal protective equipment as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the time.

The hospital also says Duncan’s specimens did not leak or spill into its tube delivery system. During Duncan’s second visit to the hospital, starting Sept. 28, the specimens were not placed in the tube system.

Duncan died Oct. 8. Two nurses contracted Ebola and remained hospitalized Thursday.

National Nurses United has called for new mandates beyond existing CDC protocols.

8:38 a.m. Thursday: Navarro College sends Nigerian students rejection letters, citing Ebola

NPR reports: “A small, two-year college in Texas sent at least two Nigerian students rejection letters saying they were not ‘accepting international students from countries with confirmed Ebola cases.’ The story came to light when Idris Ayodeji Bello, a Nigerian activist and entrepreneur,tweeted a copy of a letter apparently sent by Navarro College to one of his friends. … Navarro College did not directly admit to sending the letters, but Tuesday, it issued a statement saying the college valued its ‘diverse population.’” Read more here.

Read Dr. Daniel Varga's prepared testimony

Dr. Daniel Varga, the chief clinical officer with Texas Health Resources, is expected to testify at a Congressional committee later this morning. Here are his prepared remarks.

Testimony from Texas Health Resources Regarding Ebola Response

To learn more about the testimony from various officials, click here.

10 p.m. Wednesday: 2nd Dallas nurse with Ebola arrives in Atlanta for treatment

The second Dallas nurse who has Ebola arrived in Atlanta Wednesday evening. Television footage showed Amber Joy Vinson leaving a plane and boarding an ambulance. 

A police motorcade escorted Vinson to Emory University Hospital, where she will undergo treatment. Emory is specially equipped to treat Ebola and has a successful track record taking care of Ebola patients. 

"The patient will be treated in the same isolation unit at Emory University Hospital in which three patients have already been treated," Emory said in a statement. "The first two patients were discharged in late August and a third patient is still being treated."

Emory has a specially built isolation unit set up in collaboration with the CDC to treat patients -- one of only four types of facilities in the U.S. It is separate from other patient areas. "Emory University Hospital physicians, nurses and staff are highly trained in the specific and unique protocols and procedures necessary to treat and care for this type of patient," the hospital says.

For Wednesday's developments, click here.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Ebola in Dallas: A Timeline

Here's a look at some of the main Ebola events over the past several weeks. Hover over the right-hand side of the timeline to advance it.

Eric Aasen is KERA’s managing editor. He helps lead the station's news department, including radio and digital reporters, producers and newscasters. He also oversees, the station’s news website, and manages the station's digital news projects. He reports and writes stories for the website and contributes pieces to KERA radio. He's discussed breaking news live on various public radio programs, including The Takeaway, Here & Now and Texas Standard, as well as radio and TV programs in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
Former KERA staffer Krystina Martinez was an assistant producer. She produced local content for Morning Edition and She also produced The Friday Conversation, a weekly series of conversations with North Texas newsmakers. Krystina was also the backup newscaster for the Texas Standard.