On Thursday, Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins, Mayor Mike Rawlings, and members of city health authorities convened for an emergency commissioners court meeting to officially declare disaster in Dallas. But after a private debate, and a significantly tamer public discussion, the court agreed that while disaster declaration was a "tool in the toolbox," it's not quite time to say there's an emergency in Dallas.
Court members stressed how well Dallas is handling the Ebola outbreak and implied that declaring disaster would increase the level of fear and uncertainty throughout the city and indeed the country.
"I think given what is happening locally, it has an impact nationally, and as such we need to move cautiously with this declaration," Commissioner John Wiley Price said. "It is in our toolbox, but I am not sure ... whether it is premature."
And panic seemed to be biggest issue city officials were keen to avoid. Each official noted that despite the increasingly dismal rhetoric, people within the city of Dallas and throughout the country should not be scared out of their minds, yet.
But it's clear the hysterics have already begun. Despite repeated pleas from officials to avoid public panic and media emphasis on the minimal risks of the average person contracting Ebola, there are a number of ways in which people across the country are clearly losing their cool.
- Louisiana went out of its way to prevent the ashes from the incinerated belongings of Ebola victim Thomas Eric Duncan from being brought into the state. Last week, a judge issued an emergency court order that prevented Duncan's remains from being brought to a hazardous waste landfill. This landfill, by the way, already contains a cocktail of, among other chemicals, arsenic, asbestos, mercury and lead.
- Belton ISD in Central Texas closed three campuses on Thursday because two students in the district maybe, sort of, kind of were near the general vicinity of nurse and most recent local Ebola patient Amber Vinson. The kids were on the flight from Cleveland to DFW on which an asymptomatic Vinson flew, and the schools will be closed for a day of thorough disinfecting.
- The walking path that Vinson took through the Cleveland airport got a complete scrubbing on Thursday.
- Hazmat suit sales are through the roof. On the first day of the Ebola news, Amazon experienced a 131,000 percent jump in hazmat suit sales, and an 18,000 percent jump in mask sales. And emergency equipment suppliers are reporting sales in just the past month to have far exceeded the year's expected earnings.
- At the same time, the Dow Jones Industrial average experienced a huge drop in points this week, which many economic analysts has largely to do with Ebola fears. Airline stocks, in particular, have fallen. Ron Weiner, who is the president of RDM Financial Group, told Forbes that "when the CDC looked like they didn't know what they're doing once again, the markets responded. There's a certain degree of irrationality now."
- Navarro College rejected two students from Nigeria for admission to the school because they're from a country that had an Ebola outbreak. By that logic, SMU students can kiss those study abroads to Monaco goodbye.
- Three of nurse Vinson's relatives are employed at Kent State University in Ohio, and have been ordered to stay away from campus for 21 days. Vinson herself attended Kent State, and university officials rushed to assure students that the nurse did not step foot on campus during her short visit to Ohio for a funeral last weekend.
On the other hand, as the Washington Post details, a little panic could do us some good -- clearly a lack of immediacy and alarm have already led to a number of serious allegations, foremost among them that Presbyterian Hospital delayed more stringent measures to prevent the spread of the virus.
So what do you think, Dallas? Ready to panic yet?
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