New Yorkers maintain calm as Ebola strikes

Mayor, governor bid to reassure uneasy public as infected doctor moved to hospital

Mayor Bill de Blasio takes the subway on his route to City Hall in New York City yesterday. Many New Yorkers riding subway trains are uneasy. Photograph: Rob Bennett/Office of Mayor of New York/Getty Images

Mayor Bill de Blasio takes the subway on his route to City Hall in New York City yesterday. Many New Yorkers riding subway trains are uneasy. Photograph: Rob Bennett/Office of Mayor of New York/Getty Images

 

News of New York’s first case of Ebola was met with worry, even anger yesterday, but for this city of eight million, seasoned by everything from terror attacks to superstorms, there was little sign of panic.

Dr Craig Spencer (33), who treated Ebola patients in west Africa, was moved with elaborate precautions from his Harlem apartment to Bellevue hospital in Manhattan with a fever and tested positive for Ebola on Thursday, sparking concern about the spread of the disease in the country’s most populous city.

Despite reassurances from mayor Bill de Blasio and governor Andrew Cuomo that it was safe to use the city’s vast subway system, New Yorkers riding the trains were uneasy yesterday. Dr Spencer had ridden the subway, eaten out, taken a cab and gone bowling in Brooklyn since returning from Guinea a week ago, but before showing symptoms.

“I am worried. It feels as if doctors’ arrogance has put us all in danger. Why wouldn’t you make sure it was safe before you started running round the city,” said Amelia Fowler (38) an actor waiting at a bus stop in Brooklyn.

Fever

Owners of the bowling alley he visited said they had closed it for the day as a precaution, but the health department said it had given the site a clean bill of health after tests. Officials gave the all-clear to one of the eateries he visited and were assessing the second.

The driver of the ride-sharing taxi Dr Spencer took was not considered to be at risk, and officials insisted the three subway lines he rode before falling ill remained safe.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it had not removed any trains from service but had updated some of its health protocols, including issuing gloves and disinfectant to deal with any potentially infectious waste. Seeking to reassure New Yorkers, Mr de Blasio rode the subway yesterday, chatting with passengers.

Frustration

“I ride the train to work – I have to,” said Ruth Bowtle (48), a paralegal from Staten Island. “But I am trying not to hold onto the handrail. You try not to breathe.”

Some medical supply stores were stocking up on masks, thermometers and hand sanitisers in anticipation of a public run on the goods, similar to the response seen during the bird flu epidemic in 2009.

Heightened security was in place at Bellevue Hospital where Dr Spencer was being treated, with police officers and metal gates keeping a large crowd of reporters and television crews at bay.

Some patients and visiting relatives brushed off the idea of Dr Spencer representing a threat. Teresa Jurado, however, said she dreaded going inside the hospital where she had an appointment to treat a chronic stomach illness.

“I’m in a state of psychosis,” the retired 80-year-old Queens resident said. “For one person, we’re all going to fall sick.” In a separate development, one of two nurses infected with Ebola after treating the first patient diagnosed with the disease in the US was declared virus-free. – (Reuters)