As the first confirmed case of Ebola in New York City sparks concerns about the possibility of the spread of the virus, organizations and agencies across the tri-state say they have prepared for weeks in the case of a possible diagnosis.
Dr. Craig Spencer, 33, marks the city and the tri-state's first case of Ebola. The emergency room doctor had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea to help treat Ebola victims there and returned to the area on Oct. 17.
Gov. Cuomo said New York has been operating for weeks under the assumption that the state will have a confirmed case of Ebola, and was prepared when Spencer was confirmed to have the virus Thursday, Oct. 23.
Below is a list of the contingency and preparedness plans of several area agencies to protect employees and screen others for the virus.
Airports, Rails and Transportation
- Both Newark and John F. Kennedy international airports are screening passengers who traveled from Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea for the disease. Health care employees at those two airports are using no-touch thermometers to take passengers’ temperatures. About 95 percent of all passengers from those three countries initially land in either of those two airports or ones in Washington, Atlanta and Chicago.
- Everyone traveling into the U.S. from the Ebola-stricken nations will be monitored for symptoms for 21 days. They're required to take their temperatures at least once daily and report it to health officials.
- The Port Authority of New York & New Jersey, which runs JFK, Newark and LaGuardia airports along with several New Jersey-based mass transit systems, says it has given its first responders protective gear in the event they come in contact with someone exhibiting Ebola-like symptoms. Port Authority spokesman said the gear is “above and beyond anything required by the CDC and is done for the protection of our employees.”
- The MTA has developed a contingency plan that includes more extensive cleanings during "sick passenger" delays. MTA Chief Thomas Prendergast said there is a protocol for removing infectious waste in the transit system; there are isolation areas and transit heads have met with labor unions to ensure consistent implementation of prevention efforts.
- Cuomo said unannounced drills will be run, involving a sick passenger on a train, for example.
Emergency Response and Government
- FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro ordered its hazardous materials ambulance crews to treat all patients who are in stable condition but are suspected of having Ebola. If a patient’s life is in imminent danger, non-HAZMAT crews will still treat the patients. The FDNY is also distributing CDC-approved respirators and body suits to those crews.
- The NYPD sent out an internal memo to 35,000 officers educating them on Ebola, law enforcement sources say.
- Every member of the Nassau County Police Department, as well as 80 emergency personnel have personal protective gear to wear in the event they receive a call about a potential Ebola case. The suits had been purchased years ago to protect first responders from the effects of weapons of mass destruction and chemical warfare
- The New York State Senate is fast-tracking legislation that would review all hospitals in the Empire State for Ebola preparedness. Legislators are also looking into using unused funds from the state’s coffers to purchase equipment to safely treat the disease.
- Officials are planning a public service announcement campaign -- which could include social media and TV advertising -- to reassure New Yorkers that the disease is not easily transmittable and that there is no need to abandon the subway or schools.
- Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy said he has established a command team to act as a central authority to deal with any Ebola cases. The team is led by Public Health Commissioner Dr. Jewell Mullen and includes officials from state agencies for public safety, education, prison and environmental protection. Malloy has given Mullen authority to quarantine anyone who may have been exposed.
- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed an executive order to create a joint response team to oversee the state's response as officials begin screening passengers from West Africa for Ebola symptoms when they arrive at Newark Liberty International Airport.
Hospitals and Health Organizations
- Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan has been designated as the city's primary hospital for treating Ebola patients. The hospital told the New York Times it can treat up to four Ebola patients at a time in a designated isolation ward.
- The city Department of Health told WNYC that all 11 city hospitals are prepared for the virus and that actors have been going into area hospitals pretending to have Ebola symptoms to test each ER's response.
- Statewide, Cuomo said eight hospitals with intensive training and protocols have been identified that will be used in the event of a confirmed or suspected case of Ebola. Employees at those hospitals will go through training and regular drills to maximize preparedness. Frontline responders are getting special training. "We are trying to train the entire system," while developing specialized capacity, the governor said.
- New Jersey health officials said three hospitals in the state -- University Hospital in Newark, Hackensack Hospital in Hackensack and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Brunswick -- will be designated for cases where a patient is suspected to have Ebola.
- Hospitals across the region have been training employees on how to properly put on and take off protective suits and are conducting drills to prepare for a possible Ebola patient.
- The New York Department of Health and Mental Health said in a news release that it is working with the Centers for Disease Control and other agencies to determine the best ways to prepare New York City and its hospitals for an Ebola diagnosis.
- The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health along with state nursing unions and organizations issued two fact sheets about the virus and are urging employers to educate workers on Ebola. Access the fact sheets here and here.
- The New York Giants emailed an NFL newsletter outlining basic facts about the virus to players and staff.
- Rutgers University, NYU, colleges in the CUNY and SUNY and other higher-learning institutions in the area have posted informational bulletins about Ebola on their websites with facts about the disease and numbers for campus health centers on their websites.