TIME ebola

Texas Tells Ebola Health Care Workers Not to Travel

Dr. Daniel Varga, Chief Clinical Officer, Senior Executive Vice President, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas County Human and Health Service Director Zach Thompson held a news conference about the new Ebola case on Oct. 15, 2014 at Dallas County Commissioners Court in Dallas.
Dr. Daniel Varga, Chief Clinical Officer, Senior Executive Vice President, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins and Dallas County Human and Health Service Director Zach Thompson held a news conference about the new Ebola case on Oct. 15, 2014 at Dallas County Commissioners Court in Dallas. David Woo—Dallas Morning News/Corbis

The news comes as one nurse self-quarantines on a cruise

Health care workers who came in close proximity to the first Ebola patient diagnosed in the U.S. are being told they need to avoid public places or they may be involuntarily quarantined.

Under the new rules, which were issued late Thursday by the Texas Department of Health and affect almost 100 people, nurses who entered the hospital room of the first patient must stay away from restaurants and theaters, and forgo travel on airplanes or trains. The new directives from the state, which has seen each of the first three Ebola diagnoses on U.S. soil, lay out explicit guidelines for monitoring health care workers. They come as the federal government is under increasing pressure to do more to contain the virus. After officials were grilled by lawmakers Thursday, President Barack Obama on Friday tapped a longtime Washington aide to be an Ebola “czar” and coordinate the federal response. And the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which has been under particularly harsh scrutiny for its handling of the crisis, is expected to issue new guidelines for health care workers treating Ebola patients soon, Bloomberg reports.

Under the new Texas directives, hospital employees directly involved in caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died Oct. 8, will be monitored with twice-daily check-ins for the 21-day duration of the disease’s incubation period. One of the daily check-ins must be conducted in person.

The state has threatened to subject anyone who ignores the guidelines to a “communicable disease control order”—or in other words, to quarantine them—but officials said they expect compliance.

“These are hometown health care heroes,” Clay Jenkins, a Dallas judge who has been closely involved in managing the containment effort, told the New York Times. “They want to do this. They’re going to follow these agreements.”

The announcement comes amid news that two health care workers who had treated Duncan later traveled out of state—Amber Joy Vinson by plane and another on a cruise ship. Vinson was diagnosed with Ebola following her flight and is being treated at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta. The other, who has not been unidentified, is self-monitoring in isolation aboard the cruise ship.

The new restrictions prevent both flights and cruises, along with any other “commercial transportation” or travel to “any location where members of the public congregate.”

The Ebola outbreak has killed more than 4,500 people in West Africa.

TIME ebola

Rick Perry Wants to Ban Air Travel From West Africa Amid Ebola Outbreak

Rick Perry
Republican Gov. Rick Perry of Texas, delivers the keynote address at a Heritage Foundation event titled "The Border Crisis and New Politics of Immigration," August 21, 2014. Tom Williams—CQ-Roll Call,Inc.

He joins a growing list of politicians calling for such a ban

Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Friday called on the federal government to impose a ban on air travel from the West African countries hardest hit by Ebola, joining a growing list of politicians supporting such a travel restriction.

Perry reasoned a ban is the right move given that the first patient diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, Thomas Eric Duncan, traveled from Ebola-ridden Liberia to eventually reach Texas, the Associated Press reports. The governor’s call for travel restrictions is a reversal of his stance from just 10 days ago when he said an enhanced medical screening process would be more effective at keeping Ebola out of the country.

“The impact from banning flights from these areas is not going to be an efficient way to deal with this,” Perry said last week, according to The Hill. Referring to a travel ban, Perry added, “There are some that would make the argument that it would [hamper the fight against Ebola].”

Several prominent Republican politicians in particular, including Mitt Romney, have called for flight restrictions, but many health officials say that such a ban would only hurt efforts to contain the disease.

[AP]

TIME LGBT

Houston’s Pastors Outraged After City Subpoenas Sermons Over Transgender Bill

Ted Cruz
Sen. Ted Cruz is surrounded by preachers as he addresses a crowd at a Houston church Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014 about a legal dispute involving several pastors fighting subpoenas from Houston city attorneys. Pat Sullivan—AP

City officials have subpoenaed the sermons of five pastors who oppose the Houston's new equal rights ordinance

Houston, with its left-leaning, openly gay mayor governing an influential conservative and evangelical base, is a city politically divided. That division has been made clear in recent days after the city subpoenaed sermons of several pastors who oppose a recently passed equal rights ordinance for gay and transgender residents. The subpoenas are an attempt by city officials to determine how the preachers instructed their congregants in their push to get the law repealed.

The city’s subpoenas targeted sermons and speeches by five Houston pastors with ties to religious leaders attempting to repeal the Houston Equal Rights Ordinance, which bars businesses from discriminating against gay and transgender residents. The law, passed into law by Mayor Annise Parker in May, is often derided as a “bathroom bill,” because it allows transgender individuals to choose whether to use a male or female restroom.

This summer, a group of local pastors and religious leaders began gathering signatures in an attempt to get a referendum to repeal the law on this November’s ballot. But City Attorney David Feldman blocked that attempt by throwing out thousands of signatures he said didn’t meet the criteria to qualify, incensing groups opposed to the rule.

Local religious leaders claim Feldman illegally disqualified the referendum and have filed a suit against the city. Mayor Parker, meanwhile, has pledged not to enforce the ordinance until there’s a court decision. But the move by the city to subpoena Houston’s pastors, who have been vocal on the issue and have urged their congregants to support a repeal referendum, has drawn national attention. Republican Senator Ted Cruz said in a statement that the subpoenas were “shocking and shameful,” and Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins has called for the city to drop them as well.

“The chilling effect of government scrutiny of our pastors is unconstitutional, and unconscionable,” Perkins said in a statement. “Mayor Parker’s use of her bully pulpit to silence pulpit freedom must be stopped in its tracks.”

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott also issued a letter saying the city impinged on the pastors’ First Amendment rights and called for the subpoenas’ immediate reversal. “Whether you intend it to be so or not, your action is a direct assault on the religious liberty guaranteed by the First Amendment,” Abbott wrote to Feldman. “The people of Houston and their religious leaders must be absolutely secure in their knowledge that their religious affairs are beyond the reach of the government.”

University of Houston law professor Peter Linzer says the city reached too far in issuing the subpoenas. One subpoena sent to Pastor Steve Riggle, for example, asks for “all speeches, presentations, or sermons related to [the equal rights ordinance], the petition, Mayor Annise Parker, homosexuality, or gender identity.” However, Linzer says it wouldn’t impinge on the pastors’ First Amendment rights if the city only asked only for sermons or speeches related to the signature drive. “Let’s assume they gave instructions to cheat,” Linzer says. “That would be relevant speech and I don’t see how they would have any First Amendment protection for that.”

Among those fighting the city’s move is the Alliance for Defending Freedom, a religious freedom advocacy non-profit whose lawyers have filed a motion trying to quash the subpoenas. “I haven’t seen any indication that the city is backing down,” says Erik Stanley, the group’s senior legal counsel. “But we’re hopeful that they will. The only thing we can figure is they were subpoenaed because they spoke out against the ordinance. And they urged people to sign the petition. They exercised their constitutional rights to speak out.”

Still, Mayor Parker and City Attorney David Feldman appeared to backtrack on the subpoenas Wednesday, saying they had only recently learned of them and that outside lawyers handled the lawsuit. They argued the city is merely looking for communications from those pastors regarding the petition drive, but that the subpoenas’ language was inappropriate.

“There’s no question the wording was overly broad,” Parker said in a news conference Wednesday. “But I also think there was some deliberate misinterpretation.” Feldman, the city attorney, called the uproar over the wording “ridiculous,” but also has argued that if a pastor is speaking about political issues from the pulpit, it’s not protected. The mayor’s office declined to comment further for this story.

On Friday, The Houston Chronicle reported that the city would remove the term “sermon” from the subpoenas. Mayor Parker, however, said that relevant sermons regarding the petition drive could still be gathered.

TIME ebola

Hospital Staffer Who May Have Had Ebola Contact Left U.S. on Cruise Ship

The Texas hospital employee has shown no indications of becoming sick

Updated Friday, Oct. 17

An employee of Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who may have come in contact with specimens taken from an Ebola patient left the United States aboard a cruise ship, the State Department said Friday. The revelation raises further questions about travel policies regarding health workers involved in treating Ebola patients after it came to light that a nurse later diagnosed with the virus was allowed to fly earlier this week despite self-reporting an elevated temperature.

The employee on the cruise did not have direct contact with the patient, is not contagious, and has shown no indication of having contracted the illness in the 19 days since she came into contact with the Ebola patient’s fluid samples. The individual is nonetheless being monitored by doctors aboard the ship and has remained along with a traveling partner in voluntary isolation in a ship cabin.

The hospital employee, who is a lab supervisor at the hospital where she works, according to Carnival Senior Cruise Director John Heald, left aboard a commercial cruise ship from Galveston, Texas, on October 12, before learning of new monitoring requirements from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“We are working with the cruise line to bring them back to the United States out of an abundance of caution,” the State Department said in a statement.

In a Facebook post published Friday, Heald said the cruise line learned that the guest was aboard the ship on Wednesday.

“It is important to reiterate that the individual has no symptoms and has been isolated in an extreme abundance of caution,” Heald said in his post. “We are in close contact with the CDC and at this time it has been determined that the appropriate course of action is to simply keep the guest in isolation on board.”

TIME ebola

Ebola Survivor Donates Plasma to Infected Dallas Nurse

He was not a match for Duncan

Dr. Kent Brantly, one of the first patients flown to the U.S. after contracting Ebola in West Africa, who survived the disease, has donated his plasma to the Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who was recently diagnosed with the virus.

Dr. Brantly was a medical missionary for the group Samaritan’s Purse, which confirmed the donation. He became infected in July while working to treat Ebola patients in Liberia, and was evacuated to the U.S. for treatment.

(PHOTOS: See How A Photographer Is Covering Ebola’s Deadly Spread)

Samaritan’s Purse has also confirmed that Dr. Brantly offered to donate plasma to Thomas Duncan, the first patient to be diagnosed with Ebola in the U.S. Duncan was not a match, and therefore the donation did not happen. Duncan died of the disease on Oct. 8 at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas.

(PHOTOS: Inside the Ebola Crisis: The Images That Moved Them Most)

Brantly donated plasma to an infected NBC cameraman earlier this month. Read his account of what it’s like to survive Ebola here.

TIME weather

Severe Storms, Tornadoes Threaten Southern U.S.

NOAA CLOUDS
Storm clouds are seen above the southern United States via this satellite image on Oct. 11, 2014. NOAA/AP

Cities from Dallas to Chicago could experience wind gusts of at least 58 mph

Nearly 40 million Americans faced the threat of severe thunderstorms, hail and possible tornadoes on Monday, forecasters warned.

One person was killed when a strong storm damaged a house in Little River County, Arkansas, early Monday, according to the Little River Sheriff’s Office. NBC Dallas-Fort Worth reported downed power lines in North Texas following heavy rain and hail Monday morning.

A large portion of the northeast of the state was under a tornado watch, according to the National Weather Service. Thunderstorms were expected to progress from East Texas through the Mississippi Valley and into the Tennessee Valley on Monday, according to…

Read the rest of the story from our partners at NBC News

TIME ebola

Health Worker in Texas Tests Positive for Ebola

The worker reportedly wore full protective gear while caring for an Ebola patient who died Wednesday

Updated 7:10 a.m. E.T. on Oct. 13

A Texas health worker has tested positive for Ebola after caring for an Ebola patient who died this week, officials said Sunday, marking the second diagnosis of the deadly disease in the United States.

“We don’t know what occurred, but at some point there was a breach in protocol,” Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden said at a news conference, noting that “there is a need to enhance the protocol to make sure that they are followed.”

Following the announcement of the preliminary diagnosis by theTexas Department of State Health Services (TDSHS), the CDC later confirmed Sunday that the patient is in fact battling Ebola. The health worker is the first known case of someone contracting the deadly Ebola virus in the U.S.

The patient reported a fever on Friday after following the CDC’s self-monitoring procedures, which include twice daily temperature checks. The patient was admitted into isolation within 90 minutes of the temperature check.

“We knew a second case could be a reality, and we’ve been preparing for this possibility,” Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the TDSHS, said in a statement. “We are broadening our team in Dallas and working with extreme diligence to prevent further spread.”

The worker, who is in stable condition and whose identity has not been made public, reportedly wore protective gear while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, according to chief clinical officer Dr. Daniel Varga, the Associated Press reports. Duncan, the first individual in the U.S. to be diagnosed with Ebola, died on Wednesday.

Varga said the hospital is “very concerned” about the spread of the virus despite the worker’s safety precautions, which he said included “gown, glove, mask and shield.”

Frieden said that treatment of Ebola “can be done safely but it’s hard to do safely. Even a single inadvertent slip can result in contamination.”

The White House said in a statement Sunday afternoon that President Obama had been briefed on the new patient’s condition, and had directed that the CDC’s breach investigation move quickly and that “federal authorities take immediate additional steps to ensure hospitals and health care providers nationwide are prepared to follow protocols should they encounter an Ebola patient.”

Because of staffing limitations, the emergency department at the hospital is currently on “diversion” and is not allowing ambulances to deliver patients to the emergency room, the hospital said in a statement. Texas Health Resources is also monitoring all staff who cared for Duncan and “triple checking” its safety measures and compliance with CDC guidelines.

“Breaking the links in the chains of transmission is the key to preventing further spread,” Frieden said.

— With additional reporting by Zeke Miller

TIME ebola

Dallas Ebola Patient Gets Experimental Drug

Center For Disease Control Director Tom Frieden Addresses The Media On Ebola Case In U.S.
Director of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Tom Frieden addresses the media on the Ebola case in the U.S. at the Tom Harkin Global Communications Center on Oct. 5, 2014 in Atlanta. Kevin C. Cox—Getty Images

Patient still in critical condition

Dallas Ebola patient Thomas Duncan is now receiving an experimental drug called brincidofovir, a broad-spectrum antiviral that has appeared promising against Ebola in test tube studies. The drug is currently being tested on animals but has not been tested on humans.

Duncan is still in critical condition, according to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

The drug is an oral medication developed by the biopharmaceutical company Chimerix Inc. The company says the drug received Emergency Investigational New Drug Applications (EIND) from the Food and Drug Administration on Monday morning and it is working with the agency to open a clinical trial. The request for use of investigational drugs can be made by physicians. So far, this drug has only shown effectiveness against the virus in vitro.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden previously said the decision of whether to treat Duncan with any experimental drugs would be left up Duncan, his family and his doctors.

TIME ebola

This Texas Judge Is Fighting Fear and Ebola in Dallas

First Ebalo case diagnosed in the United States
Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins speaks to the media during a press conference on the status of Ebola patient Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas, on Oct. 2, 2014. Larry W. Smith—EPA

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins tells TIME about the challenges of an Ebola emergency in America

Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins is the first local elected official in the world to oversee the emergency response to a case of Ebola diagnosed outside of Africa. From the moment he took charge of coordinating the Dallas response, after a man visiting from Liberia tested positive for the disease, he’s found himself with responsibilities he never anticipated. He made a point of visiting the home of the infected man without protective clothing, took the responsibility for driving his quarantined family to their new home, and has been doing what he can to coordinate the state and federal response, while keeping his voters calm.

None of that means he had to miss this week’s Cowboys game. During a moment of relative calm away from the Emergency Command Center that hums with activity from 7 in the morning to around 10 at night, TIME caught up with Jenkins in his downtown office Sunday at the old Texas School Book Depository, across the street from Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll. He was wearing a black shirt with “Homeland Security” emblazoned on it, meeting with staff and catching the end of the NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Houston Texans. They were tied 17-17. I sat with my back to the TV so Jenkins could watch the game as we spoke about the moment on Tuesday September 30 that he heard Ebola might be in Dallas.

“We’ve got a hospital with 10,000 employees, I’ve got a county with 6,000 employees and I’m the highest elected official in that county, so things are happening all the time and that’s one data point that was happening,” he said. “I wasn’t envisioning that an instant command structure would be requested by our federal and state partners and that I’d be all that involved in that, at that point.”

Judges in Texas are the highest administrative officials in each county, with extraordinary powers that are a vestige of the Old West when a rural judge could make a claim as broad as “I am the law” without being too far off the mark. In Dallas today, the County Judge has two main responsibilities: get truant children back into school and, in the event of a disaster, lead the county’s response as the Director of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness.

A Democrat first elected to office in 2010, Jenkins cut his teeth in emergency response with an outbreak of West Nile virus in in 2012. Earlier this year he stirred up controversy by offering Dallas County facilities to house undocumented immigrant children flooding across the U.S.-Mexico border. He’s up for re-election in just a few weeks.

By Wednesday afternoon, after Ebola test results came back positive and following a series of meetings between officials from Texas, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the White House, Jenkins was firmly in charge. That night he and others began sorting through the immediate challenges ahead: getting the infected man Thomas Eric Duncan’s potentially-toxic belongings out of the North Dallas apartment where he’d been staying, identifying and monitoring every person with whom Duncan may have come in contact, and, Jenkins said, finding a better living situation for Duncan’s partner Louise Troh and the three young men who had been placed under quarantine with her in the apartment. Law enforcement officers stood outside the door blocking the family’s exit from a home where they were forced to stay with linens stained with the sweat of a man infected with one of the most deadly diseases known to man.

“One of the first things we wanted to do is move the family,” Jenkins said. “The problem is that when you’ve got Ebola, it’s very difficult to find somebody that wants to open up a shelter or a home or rent to you even if you want to pay for it.” Jenkins said his office called the Greater Dallas Apartment Association, the Dallas Housing Authority and “basically called through every listed renter in Dallas.” All turned them down.

As much as with Ebola itself, Jenkins has been doing battle a contagion that can under the wrong circumstances turn just as deadly: fear. If people with the sniffles convinced they have Ebola start overfilling the Dallas-area’s already stressed emergency rooms—Texas has the highest rate of uninsured citizens in the country—perfectly treatable infirmities could become more lethal. If scared parents keep their kids out of school too long, it creates a whole separate problem in the education system—one, as it happens, that Jenkins would also be responsible for fixing.

That is why Jenkins obsessively reminds anyone who will listen of Ebola’s achilles heel: it isn’t contagious unless a person is showing symptoms of the disease. It’s the key both to stopping pandemic fear from disrupting day to day life and to defeating Ebola itself. Isolate and monitor the health of everyone who might be infected for a 21 day incubation period and, if they are symptom free, they’re healthy and you’ve beaten the disease.

To get this point across, Jenkins has employed some unorthodox tactics over the past week, like walking into an apartment where an Ebola patient had been staying without protective gear. Clearing the apartment of both contaminated linens and the symptom-free people in it was delayed by permitting issues and “that’s when I went out to see Louise and the young men,” Jenkins said, “to go into their apartment and see them as human beings and explain to them the situation.” But by entering the apartment Jenkins was also, at least as importantly, sending the message to the wider world that hazmat suits milling around or not these people, lacking any symptoms, were incapable, even if infected, of passing along Ebola.

Unsuccessful in finding anywhere else for Louise and the young men to stay, Jenkins said he called a local faith leader. “What I told them is there is literally no more room at the inn and I need your help,” he said.

The same impetus that led him to enter the apartment helps explain Jenkins’ decision to drive the family himself to their new home. Philip Haigh, a member of Jenkins’ executive staff, was initially set to drive the Ford Explorer while Jenkins rode along and spoke with the family but when they couldn’t all fit because a seat couldn’t be raised out of the down position Jenkins took the wheel and Haigh rode behind in a police cruiser.

“The sheriff’s deputy that I ended up riding with initially didn’t shake my hand because he was afraid that I had gotten too close to the scene,” Haigh told TIME. By driving the car himself, Jenkins sent the same message as before to first responders: until a person show’s symptoms, Ebola isn’t contagious and fear itself is the greater enemy.

Jenkins drove Troh and the three men to their new temporary home, where, according two people who have spoken with her on the phone, Troh is comfortable and understandably glad to be away from the apartment in which she was imprisoned the better part of a week. “They can go outside, they have room to roam,” Jenkins said. “It’s the kind of place that a young man can go out and exercise and even explore. Walk around. It’s a large premises away from other people.”

After dropping off the family Jenkins spoke to the press. “I’m wearing the same shirt I was when I was in the car for 45 minutes today with that family,” he said. “If there was any risk, I wouldn’t expose myself or my family.”

For now, pandemic fear has not gripped the better part of the Dallas area. Life goes on as before, except among the Liberian community here, where rumors fly about stigmatization at work and school and people typically prone to warm embraces keep their distance even from each other. With Louise Troh and the boys in a safe place and everyone who Duncan may have interacted with identified, Jenkins’ office must now wait and hope: that Thomas Eric Duncan survives and that no one else gets sick.

In the meantime, there was some good news. The Cowboys won Sunday with a field goal in overtime.

TIME Texas

Texas Company Recalls Nearly 91,000 Pounds of Beef

Wholesale Price Of Beef Rises to New High
Justin Sullivan—Getty Images

Pieces of metal, approximately 3 mm in size, were found in the beef

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas (AP) — The U.S. Department of Agriculture says a Texas company is recalling nearly 91,000 pounds of ground beef products that might be contaminated with pieces of metal.

Corpus Christi-based Sam Kane Beef Processors is recalling the beef products after four consumer complaints were received about pieces of metal, approximately 3 mm in size, being found.

Three of the products being recalled — packages of 3, 5 and 10 pounds — were sold by HEB stores and another was a set of 10 pound packages of formed patties made from Sam Kane Beef Processors “Ground Chuck.”

The packages were produced between Sept. 9, 2014 and Sept. 18, 2014, with sell by dates between Sept. 29, 2014 and Oct. 8, 2014. The products were shipped to retail outlets in Texas.

Your browser, Internet Explorer 8 or below, is out of date. It has known security flaws and may not display all features of this and other websites.

Learn how to update your browser