TIME ebola

NYC Officials Trace Ebola Patient’s Steps as Mayor Urges Calm

Three others have been quarantined

As health officials work to clear anyone who may have come into contact with New York City’s first Ebola patient, Mayor Bill DeBlasio reassured residents that the city is prepared to treat Ebola patients and is not at risk of a widespread Ebola outbreak.

“New Yorkers who have not been exposed to an infected person’s bodily fluids are simply not at risk,” said DeBlasio at a Friday press conference. “We’ve had clear and strong protocols from the beginning, and they have been followed to the letter.”

Health officials are currently contacting everyone Ebola patient Craig Spencer may have come into contact with since Tuesday morning “in an abundance of caution,” according to New York City Health Commissioner Mary Travis Bassett. Spencer, a doctor who returned from Guinea on Oct. 17, was diagnosed with Ebola Thursday.

Spencer’s fiancee, along with two friends, has been quarantined and restricted from public spaces. Gutter and Blue Bottle, a bowling alley and coffee shop visited by the patient, have been cleared and reopened, and a third establishment, the Meatball Shop, is closed temporarily but is expected to be cleared.


A Metropolitan Transportation Authority official told TIME that the city’s subway system is safe to ride, but noted that protocols had been updated to ensure safe handling of any potentially infectious waste. Spencer reportedly rode the subway from his home in Harlem to Brooklyn Wednesday.

Spencer is being treated in an isolation unit at New York’s Bellevue Hospital. He is in stable condition and communicating with friends via cell phone, officials said.

–additional reporting by Alice Park

TIME ebola

Doctors Without Borders Responds to New York Ebola Case

Doctor Quarantined At NYC's Bellevue Hospital After Showing Symptoms Of Ebola
A New York City Police officer stands at the entrance to Bellevue Hospital October 23, 2014 in New York City. Bryan Thomas—Getty Images

"Extremely strict procedures are in place"

Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) confirmed Friday that one its staff members tested positive for Ebola in New York City this week. While the patient’s identity, Dr. Craig Spencer, has been made public, MSF declined to provide further details about his him, citing privacy reasons.

Spencer had recently returned from Guinea, where he was part of the humanitarian aid group’s efforts to treat the Ebola epidemic there. MSF had strict procedures requiring members returning from Ebola-stricken areas to monitor themselves by taking their temperature twice a day for potential signs of a fever, an early sign of the virus. When Spencer found his temperature was high on Thursday morning, he immediately called MSF, which then contacted the New York City Department of Health & Mental Hygiene.

MORE: Ebola in New York: How Worried Should the City Be?

“Extremely strict procedures are in place for staff dispatched to Ebola affected countries before, during, and after their assignments,” Sophie Delaunay, executive director of MSF said in a statement. “Despite the strict protocols, risk cannot be completely eliminated. However, close post-assignment monitoring allows for early detection of cases and for swift isolation and medical management.”

According to the group, three MSF members and 21 locally employed staff have been infected with Ebola; thirteen have died. MSF has 3,000 employees working in West Africa to treat Ebola patients; more than 700 international staff from around the world have spent varying amounts of time in the region battling the epidemic.

TIME ebola

Does Insurance Cover Ebola Care?

Your chances of getting Ebola in the U.S. are very slim. But if you do, who's footing the bill?

Ebola care is pricey, with estimates ranging from $5,000 to $25,000 per day, according to several health care analysts and experts who spoke to TIME. Some patients will end up spending weeks at a hospital, racking up a bill of $500,000 or more. That includes everything from paying the medical staff to disposing of waste, to the cost of resources like protective gear.

“The cost of treating a patient is going to vary vastly from hospital to hospital, [starting with] length of stay,” says Andrew Fitch, a health-care pricing expert at NerdWallet. “A patient treated in Dallas was only hospitalized for two weeks while another was treated for six weeks. The cost of dialysis and IV fluids is going to add up pretty fast and that is going to be compounded by the cost of isolation.”

So who foots the bill?

If you have insurance in the U.S., your insurer is likely going to cover the costs under emergency and/or inpatient care coverage. Even though patients with Ebola often first present in the emergency room, the disease is typically intensive and can last for several weeks. Major insurance providers TIME spoke to said they would cover Ebola treatment—but bear in mind that coverage starts after a person has met his or her deductible, which can be upwards of $13,000 for some family plans and $6,000 for an individual plan, says Jeffrey Rice, CEO
of Healthcare BlueBook, a Tennessee company that calculates health-care prices for consumers.

Dr. Craig Spencer, the Ebola patient in New York City, has health insurance coverage through Doctors Without Borders. Missionaries like Dr. Kent Brantly, Dr. Richard Sacra and Nancy Writebol have insurance through their missionary groups. Nebraska Medical Center, which has treated two patients with Ebola, including Sacra and NBC freelancer Ashoka Mukpo, says all of its patients’ care has so far been covered by their insurance providers.

But what if you don’t have health insurance?

Despite numerous requests from TIME to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas, the hospital did not confirmed how the uninsured Liberian patient Thomas Eric Duncan’s care was paid for. Analysts believe it’s unlikely that Duncan’s family will be dealt a hefty bill given how high-profile the case was and the mistakes made by the hospital.

Nebraska Medical Center says it would go about treating an uninsured patient with Ebola the same way that it would treat any patient who comes into their emergency room without insurance. They are federally obligated to treat the patient, and then the patients who cannot pay for their care can apply for financial aid and become part of the hospital’s charitable care program. “We provide millions of dollars worth of this kind of care yearly,” a Nebraska hospital spokesperson told TIME.

What if you get sent to a hospital that’s out of network?

Being treated at out-of-network hospital or by an out-of-network doctor could, in theory, result in a hefty bill. Getting out-of-network treatment covered by your insurance company is decided on a case-by-case basis based on medical necessity. While insurers have the legal right to refuse to cover this type of treatment, says Sabrina Corlette of the Center on Health Insurance Reforms at Georgetown University, it’s highly unlikely that they would sack the patient with the bill.

If your stuff needs to be incinerated, does insurance cover that?

One of the surefire ways to get rid of any lingering virus within an Ebola patient’s home is to incinerate their belongings. But do they get reimbursed? Most likely. If a government body or medical professional recommends or requires the destruction of property as a preventative measure in the spread of the virus, the value of the destroyed items would most likely be covered at the cost to replace them, or at depreciated value under a home, business or renters policy, says Amy Bach, executive director of United Policyholders.

Does insurance cover experimental drugs?

No, but that’s because there’s typically no cost involved at all when a drug is still in research and development.

 

TIME ebola

Dallas Nurse Released After Declared Free of Ebola

Pham is Ebola-free

A Dallas nurse who was infected with Ebola while treating a patient with the disease is free of the virus and has been discharged, the National Institutes of Health said Friday. Pham will head home to Texas Friday after first meeting with President Barack Obama, according to the President’s schedule.

Nina Pham was admitted to the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Oct. 16 and has made a speedy recovery. She fell ill while caring for Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was diagnosed with Ebola in Dallas and died of the disease Oct. 8. “We think of the National Institutes of Health as National Institutes of Hope, and hope went up a notch,” said NIH director Francis Collins in a press conference introducing Pham Friday.

Pham said at that conference she felt “fortunate and blessed” to be Ebola-free. She’s now heading back to Texas to return to a normal life and spend time with her dog, who has also been declared free of the virus. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said they confirmed Pham’s health five times, calling Pham “an extraordinarily courageous and lovely person.”

The treatment unit in which Pham was treated was built in 2011 as part of a bioterrorism preparation plan. The seven-bed unit is designed to care for patients with serious communicable diseases and has a staff of 50 to 60 highly-trained infectious disease experts and health care workers. The unit has special ventilation systems and waste disposal systems.

Pham received donated plasma from fellow Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, but it’s unclear how much of an impact that had on her recovery. Pham has asked for privacy for herself and her family.

News of Pham’s impending release comes just hours after Bellevue Hospital in New York City confirmed it’s treating that city’s first case of the Ebola virus.

Emory University Hospital also announced on Friday that another Dallas nurse battling Ebola, Amber Vinson, no longer has the virus in her blood, though she will remain in the hospital for supportive care.

TIME ebola

NYC Doctor With Ebola Described As a ‘Dedicated Humanitarian’

Doctor Quarantined At NYC's Bellevue Hospital After Showing Symptoms Of Ebola
A health alert is displayed at the entrance to Bellevue Hospital October 23, 2014 in New York City. Bryan Thomas—Getty Images

Friends and colleagues have high praise for Dr. Craig Spencer as he begins a fight for his life

The New York City-based doctor who tested positive for Ebola Thursday after working with virus patients in the West African country of Guinea is a high achiever and a “dedicated humanitarian,” the hospital where he works said in a statement.

Dr. Craig Spencer “is a committed and responsible physician who always puts his patients first,” said a statement from New York Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, where Spencer serves as an emergency room doctor. Before being diagnosed with Ebola, Spencer had been working with humanitarian aid group Doctor’s Without Borders fighting the virus’ outbreak in West Africa.

Spencer, 33, left Guinea, one of the countries hardest hit by the recent Ebola outbreak, on Oct. 14. Spencer returned to the U.S. via New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport on Oct. 17. He began showing symptoms on Thursday, Oct. 23, when his temperature was recorded at a slightly elevated 100.3 degrees fahrenheit, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Friday morning, clarifying widespread reports Thursday that Duncan’s temperature was above 103 degrees. Ebola can incubate undetected in the body for up to 21 days before an infected person shows symptoms. Ebola patients are not contagious until they show symptoms, and they become increasingly contagious as they get more sick.

Spencer graduated from Baltimore’s Johns Hopkins University, studied Chinese language and literature at Henan University in China, earned a medical degree from Detroit’s Wayne State University School of Medicine and, in 2008, started his residency in New York, becoming a fellow at the Columbia University Medical Center’s International Medicine Program, according to information drawn from his LinkedIn profile by The Wall Street Journal. Spencer’s LinkedIn page has since been taken down.

“He was an outstanding student, humanitarian, excellent physician,” one of Spencer’s professors told the Journal. “He’s done a lot of good international work. He had been to parts of the world—marginalized, disenfranchised—working to improve the human condition.”

According to a friend who met Spencer through the website Couchsurfing, which connects travelers with free places to stay, he’s a runner who plays the banjo and speaks French, Chinese and Spanish.

TIME space

The Largest Sunspot in Decades Is Spitting Solar Flares at Earth

NASA

The event could lead to more auroras and disrupt spacecraft and power systems on Earth

The sun’s largest sunspot region in more than 20 years is facing Earth, sending solar flares our way and threatening a coronal mass ejection (CME), which can cause auroras and significant disruptions to our power grids.

Sunspots are relatively cooler regions of the sun visible on the surface, with complex magnetic field activity. The sunspot region AR12192 is the “largest sunspot group since November of 1990,” according to Doug Biesecker, a researcher at the National Weather Service Space Weather Prediction Center. AR12192 is roughly the size of the planet Jupiter, but the largest sunspot on record, seen in 1947, was three times that size.

AR2192 has been sending out high-energy solar flares but thus far no CME, which, Biesecker says, tend to be more closely associated with the magnetic complexity of a sunspot region than with a region’s size. A smaller solar storm around Halloween back in 2003, for example, created auroras visible as far south as Florida. With the high level of flare activity at present, scientists expect that if AR12192 releases CMEs directly toward Earth it will do so in the next three to four days, The Washington Post reports.

TIME People

Former Boston Mayor Thomas Menino Stops Chemotherapy

Ex-Boston Mayor Menino Cancer
FILE - In this April 21, 2014 file photo, from left, Boston Mayor Martin Walsh, former Mayor Thomas Menino, and four-time Boston Marathon champion Bill Rodgers walk past the finish line before the start of the 118th Boston Marathon in Boston. Elise Amendola—AP

The announcement came as a shock to Bostonians who see Menino as an indelible presence in their city

Former Boston mayor Thomas M. Menino has stopped treatment for advanced cancer, the much-beloved titan of Boston politics said on Wednesday.

Menino’s announcement startled and saddened Bostonians, who have seen the five-term mayor — perhaps still the most recognizable person in Boston’s political scene — carry on with business as usual since he was diagnosed with advanced-stage cancer in Feb., the Boston Globe reports. Menino had left office just a month before the diagnosis.

“While I continue to fight this terrible disease, I feel it is time for me to spend more time with my family, grandkids, and friends,” Menino said in a statement. “Angela [Menino’s wife] and I are grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support and kindness shown to our family and ask that everyone keep us in their thoughts and prayers.”

The 71-year-old also suspended a tour to promote his book, Mayor for a New America.

Menino helmed Boston for two decades as the city’s longest-serving mayor, and he is widely credited with shepherding Boston through tough economic times to become a bright, resurgent city.

“It’s hard to do anything in the public eye, and even this, even this, you do with class,” said one commentator on the statement posted to Menino’s Facebook page.

“Thanks Mr. Mayor,” he said.

[The Boston Globe]

TIME Crime

NYPD Officers Shoot And Kill Man Who Attacked Them With a Hatchet

Police Shooting
In this frame grab taken from video provided by the New York Police Department, an unidentified man approaches New York City police officers with a hatchet, Thursday, Oct. 23, 2014, in the Queens borough of New York. AP

One of the officers is in hospital in critical but stable condition

A man was shot and killed in Queens on Thursday after he attacked four New York Police Department officers with a hatchet.

The assailant, who is yet to be identified, was seen taking the hatchet out of a backpack before assaulting the rookie officers around 2 p.m., the Associated Press reported.

One of the officers blocked the first swing of the hatchet with his arm, while the second took a serious blow to the head. The other two officers then drew their guns and fatally shot the attacker, with a stray bullet also wounding a woman standing nearby who has now been hospitalized.

The New York Times reported that the officer who was struck in the head is 25-year-old Kenneth Healey. Police Commissioner William Bratton said in a news conference that Healey had received “a very serious injury to the backside of his head” and was in critical but stable condition.

The man did not say anything to the officers before attacking them, and Bratton said a motive for the attack was still being established. The commissioner also said the officers were posing together for a photograph requested by a pedestrian when the attack occurred.

TIME Crime

3 Key Takeaways From Amnesty International’s Ferguson Report

Ferguson St. Louis Protests
Police officers in riot gear hold a line as they watch demonstrators protest in St. Louis on Oct. 12, 2014. Joshua Lott—AFP/Getty Images

It's the first time the human rights group has documented abuses inside the U.S.

Correction appended Oct. 24, 1:25 p.m. ET

Amnesty International made headlines in August when the international human rights organization dispatched a team of observers and advocates to document the unrest in Ferguson, Mo. that followed the fatal police shooting of Michael Brown, the first time a delegation of its kind had investigated human rights abuses in the United States.

The resulting report was released Friday. It doesn’t shine any light on the altercation between Brown and police officer Darren Wilson or what led Wilson to kill the unarmed teenager. But there’s value in reading about the events in Ferguson through the lens of human rights. Here are three key claims made in the Amnesty report:

1) Lethal force was not justified

The report acknowledges that there are conflicting accounts of the physical altercation between Brown and Wilson, but says that none of them rise to the level that would have justified lethal force. “International standards provide that law enforcement officers should only use force as a last resort…Irrespective of whether there was some kind of physical confrontation between Michael Brown and the police officer, Michael Brown was unarmed and thus unlikely to have presented a serious threat.” But several witnesses testified in front of a grand jury that Brown and Wilson did struggle over Wilson’s gun, the Washington Post reported Wednesday. If Brown had tried to take Wilson’s gun, as some evidence suggests, then Wilson may not have broken the law.

2) Ferguson police violated the human right to peaceful assembly

Amnesty notes that according to international law, the right of peaceful assembly is a basic human right. The report notes that law enforcement imposed several restrictions on this right, including a curfew and the “keep walking” rule, which was imposed on Aug. 18 to deter groups from massing. The report says that in the 12 days after Michael Brown’s death, 132 people were arrested for “failing to disperse.” The Amnesty delegation also condemned the use of tear gas and rubber bullets to break up protests, and the threats made against journalists and legal observers. But the protests in Ferguson weren’t always peaceful– there were reports of protesters shooting at police cars, throwing bottles at police, and numerous other violent encounters.

3) There is not enough data on police shootings

The report calls for data on police shootings to be broken out by race, ethnicity and gender in order to give a complete picture of how many black men are killed by police per year. Amnesty also recommends that Congress pass the End Racial Profiling Act and the Stop Militarizing Law Enforcement Act.

You can read the full Executive Summary of the report here: Ferguson Report Executive Summary

The original version of this story misstated the nature of Amnesty International’s work in the United States. The group has researched human rights abuses in the United States previously. This August was the first time the organization sent a delegation of observers, advocates and trainers to document unrest anywhere in the United States.

TIME ebola

How Ready Is New York City for Ebola?

The city says it's much more prepared for Ebola than Dallas

Doctors Without Borders physician Dr. Craig Spencer tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, Oct. 23, at Bellevue Hospital in New York City, immediately testing the strength of the city’s preparation for the deadly disease.

Given the mistakes made during the first case of diagnosed Ebola in the United States—Thomas Eric Duncan in Dallas—New York City has more fears to quell and also more to prove. Can it do better than Dallas?

Its leaders certainly think so.

New York City has been prepping and drilling its hospitals for the possibility of an Ebola patient since July 28, when it was confirmed that Americans Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol had contracted Ebola in Liberia. “I wanted to know that our staff was able to handle [a possible Ebola patient],” says Dr. Marc Napp, senior vice president of medical affairs at Mount Sinai Health System.

“We’ve prepared for a variety of different things in the past: anthrax, H1N1, small pox, 9/11, Hurricane Sandy,” Kenneth Raske, president of the Greater New York Hospital Association (GNYHA) told TIME. “This preparation is not unusual.”

New York City is also one of the first cities to adopt a new system that designates one hospital within a region—Bellevue in this instance—to be the headquarters for Ebola care. If there’s a patient who is a risk, like Spencer, Bellevue will take the patient. Should a potential Ebola case walk into the emergency room of another hospital, those patients can be transferred to Bellevue.

This is not the first time New York officials have responded to a possible Ebola case. In early August, Mount Sinai announced it had a patient with a travel history and symptoms that were a red flag for Ebola. The emergency room isolated the patient and the hospital sent blood for tests to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—tests that ultimately came back negative.

The city wasn’t as lucky with Spencer, who had been self-monitoring since returning from Liberia. Spencer notified Doctors Without Borders when he ran a temperature on Thursday morning. Staff from New York’s Bellevue hospital were soon at his doorstep in hazmat suits, ready to take him in for treatment to the hospital.

“We were hoping [this] wouldn’t happen but we were realistic,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a press conference at Bellevue Thursday night. “We can’t say this was an unexpected circumstance.”

Cuomo noted that New York City had the advantage of learning from Dallas’ experience and its mistakes. Texas Presbyterian Hospital failed to diagnose Duncan with Ebola right away, despite his Ebola-like symptoms and the fact he’d been in Liberia.

“The trigger went off again when the nurses got sick in Dallas,” says Mount Sinai’s Napp. New York officials worked closely with the CDC and local health departments as well as with JFK Airport to ensure procedures were in place for identifying people who may be at risk for Ebola at every point of entry to the country. On Oct. 21, the city hosted an Ebola education session that was run by area health experts, with members of the CDC who demonstrated the proper donning and doffing personal protective equipment (PPE). Over 5,000 health care workers and hospital staff members took part.

“As a result of the missteps in Dallas, there were a whole new series of protocols,” says Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency medicine physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.

There are some challenges—New York has spent time and energy preparing based on now outdated CDC guidelines. The new CDC guidelines for PPEs were only announced on Oct. 20, which doesn’t give the city much time to “practice, practice, practice” them as CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden has suggested.

And New York City has the challenge of sheer size and density. New Yorkers live in very close quarters with one another. Thankfully, Ebola isn’t an airborne disease, so even though Spencer traveled Brooklyn to go bowling, since he wasn’t symptomatic, anyone he might have encountered is at very low risk of contracting the disease.

For now, New York City has just one patient, and it plans to get it right. Doing so might restore American confidence in the system—but failure would be devastating.

Read next: Can You Get Ebola From Subway Poles and Bowling Balls?

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