As multiple health care workers who treated the nation's first Ebola victim have tested positive for the virus themselves, Texas officials are laying down movement restrictions for all hospital workers who came in contact with Thomas Eric Duncan earlier this month.
Ebola has a maximum incubation period of 21 days, and today marks day 19 since Duncan was admitted to Dallas' Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital for treatment of the virus. So state officials are asking the nearly 100 doctors, nurses, and assistants who treated Duncan during his week-long stay to voluntarily sign documents that ask the workers to stay at home or at the hospital under careful monitoring.
These restrictions state that the workers cannot travel by commercial transportation until 21 days after the last person's exposure. They're also advised to avoid any public places, like restaurants, grocery stores, or movie theaters during this time.
Despite the voluntary nature of these documents, it's believe that the state can order these workers into quarantine if they refuse to cooperate. Similar to the procedure for the quarantine of Duncan's Dallas family on October 1st, violating the communicable disease control order could result in criminal prosecution or civil court proceedings.
So far, only one of Duncan's caregivers who contracted the virus from him has travelled, igniting a nationwide scare and more action from health officials. Nurse Amber Joy Vinson had flown by plane to Cleveland, Ohio two days after Duncan died of the virus. When the Dallas nurse tested positive for Ebola on Wednesday, all 160 passengers of that flight were notified and are expected to undergo some sort of monitoring during their own 21-day incubation period.
Another worker who is thought to have had contact with Duncan's bodily fluid samples during his treatment is currently on a cruise ship near Belize for vacation. The health care worker and a traveling partner have both agreed to remain isolated in a cabin on the ship as a precautionary measure. Despite the couple showing no signs of the virus, the government of Belize has refused to allow American officials to evacuate the ship's passengers into the country.
The first nurse to contract Ebola from Duncan, 26-year-old Nina Pham, is said to be showing improvements and resting comfortably. "We have hope that Nina Pham will recover completely and walk out of this hospital," said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the Bethesda, Maryland facility where she's being treated.
Mike Rawlings, the mayor of Dallas, urged Dallas County commissioners in a meeting on Thursday not to declare a disaster for the area and to stay "conservative" in the government's approach to handling the situation.
Declaring a disaster for Dallas County would give county leaders broader powers for dealing with evacuations, quarantines, and other movement restrictions.
"We just don't need those sorts of powers, that would do things like order people to go inside before certain hours or order people to not do something," the mayor said after the meeting. "We have 75 people who are reaching agreements with us to do those things and I don't need to abridge the rights of the other 2.4 million."