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DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – It has been three weeks since Ebola patient Thomas Duncan was placed into isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. This also means that it has been three weeks since members of the North Texas community came into contact with the country’s first Ebola patient.
Health officials in Dallas County had previously identified 48 individuals who were in direct contact with Duncan during the four or five days after he began showing symptoms, but before he had been isolated. According to Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, 43 of those people were taken off of the county’s watch list on Monday morning. Another person will roll off of the list later on Monday.
Mayor Mike Rawlings called this “a milestone day” for Dallas.
The final four people from the initial watch list will end their monitoring period in the coming days. Jenkins explained that these people are health care workers who saw Duncan on September 28 and continued to have contact with him beyond that time. The daily monitoring includes frequent temperature checks.
This is also a big day for residents of The Ivy Apartments in Dallas, where Duncan stayed prior to being admitted to the hospital. Many people who live at the apartment complex were nervous that they would somehow contract Ebola, even if they were not on the official watch list.
Still, there are 120 people in North Texas being monitored for Ebola, mostly health care workers and the people they contacted. Rawlings declared November 7 as the first day that the Metroplex could be entirely Ebola-free.
The list of Ebola-free individuals includes five children, who must now integrate back into their community after three weeks of being quarantined at home. Dallas Independent School District superintendent Mike Miles said that those kids would return to school on Tuesday, but four of the five children were actually back in classes on Monday. “We are happy to have our kids back in our schools,” Miles said. “They don’t have the virus. They can’t give the virus.”
Jenkins expressed concern for how these young men will be treated upon returning to classes, even though there is “zero risk” that they have Ebola now that 21 days have passed. “These are people who have been through an incredible ordeal,” he said. “They are people who need our respect and our compassion and our love.”
Duncan’s family members, now also removed from the county’s watch list, have requested privacy during this time, as they continue to grieve over their lost loved one. Duncan died at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital after more than 10 days in isolation. “We are so happy this is coming to an end, and we are so grateful that none of us has shown any sign of illness,” said Duncan’s fiancee, Louise Troh, in a statement released Sunday. “We continue to mourn Duncan’s loss and grieve the circumstances that led to his death. We thank all people of kindness who have prayed for us during this time, and we join your prayers now for others who are suffering too.”
Two nurses who treated Duncan are now being treated themselves for Ebola at hospitals in Georgia and Maryland. Jenkins and Rawlings declared them “heroes” on Monday morning, and encouraged North Texans to show their gratitude for our nation’s health care workers.
Meanwhile, Troh and her kids have been staying at a gated Catholic retreat in Oak Cliff during their quarantine. Bishop Kevin Farrell stated that it was an easy decision to host the family during this difficult time. All other retreats and activities were canceled during the family’s stay. They plan to stay at the retreat until they can find a new home.
Pastor George Mason from Wilshire Baptist Church said that Troh is anxious to be released, but she fears backlash from the community. “She is a human being, and she is not only concerned with herself, she’s concerned with other people as well,” Mason stated. “There is a lot of emotion going on here today, but a great deal of joy and hope at the same time.”
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