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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) — The charter company that transported Dallas Ebola patient Amber Joy Vinson to Atlanta has now explained the presence of an individual seen in plain clothes on Wednesday.

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The Phoenix Air employee stood close by with a clipboard in hand as two men in protective gear assisted Vinson onto the charter plane.

According to Phoenix Air, the man is part of an organized, three-person medical team that is typically sent on medical missions.


Spokesperson Randy Davis says the man does not wear protective hazmat gear because noise levels on airport tarmacs make it difficult to hear. The plain-clothed individual serves as a “medical safety coordinator”, watching for external threats like baggage carts or taxiing planes.

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Davis says the coordinator keeps a safe distance according to safety procedures. The CDC agrees.

A CDC spokesman said the man maintained an appropriate distance from the patient for the amount of time spent on the tarmac. The fact that Vinson was wearing protective gear must also be considered.

The transport met protocol because the people clothed in hazmat suits were the ones actually assisting Vinson.

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In another moment on the tarmac, the men appeared to be handling an orange bag. Davis says the bags are typically used to transport items like medical records, though it’s unclear what was in those particular bags.

Viewers of the tarmac video contacted CBS 11, voicing their concerns with the unprotected individual.

The concern is understandable after two healthcare workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, including Vinson, were infected while working closely with an Ebola patient.

Phoenix Air is the same company that handled the transport of Dr. Keith Brantly, an American patient who was treated at Emory Hospital in Atlanta after arriving from Liberia.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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