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Texas' Top Health Official Reflects On Ebola Response In Dallas

Krystina Martinez
Dr. David Lakey is the commissioner at the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Friday is a big day in North Texas: It’s the last day of monitoring for any North Texan who might have been exposed to Ebola. If all goes well – and so far, it has -- Dallas will be Ebola-free.

No one will be happier about that than Dr. David Lakey. He’s commissioner of the state’s health department and he sat down with KERA’s vice president of news, Rick Holter.

Interview Highlights: Dr. David Lakey…

Credit Krystina Martinez / KERA News
Dr. David Lakey at a press conference Oct. 1.

…On the decision to create an “Ebola containment center” in Richardson:

“We had been caring for individuals at Presbyterian. In my opinion and in other people’s opinion, we needed to get Presbyterian back on its feet. They had really gone through the mill with their nurses being infected, with the staffing challenges that they had, it was time to let Presbyterian heal and we needed to identify a place here in North Texas that could care for those individuals.

Part of the calculus was that if you did that at Parkland or UT Southwestern [Medical Center], you’d have the potential of taking down another major hospital in Dallas if one of those individuals became ill.”

…On the apparent confusion in the public health system when Thomas Eric Duncan was diagnosed:

“I think a lot of folks were afraid. It hit on many levels – it hit on the cleaning crews and who would come in and who would not. There were a lot of attempts to move the family [of Thomas Eric Duncan] to another apartment. They couldn’t find anyone that would lease their apartment to the government to move those individuals in and part of that was if [the landlords] knew that they did, there’d be a media frenzy right in front of the apartment. I wouldn’t underestimate the media’s impact on the ability to get some things done.”


Dr. David Lakey on the criticism from New York governor Andrew Cuomo.

…On the biggest lesson learned:

“As you approach [disaster] events, there will be surprises. Your plans are not going to be perfect and you need to accept that and be willing to change your plan in order to meet the challenge that you face on the ground.”

Dr. David Lakey on some practical takeaways from dealing with Ebola in Dallas.

Ebola In Dallas: A Timeline

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

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.