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Leading Off (10/31/14)

Last Day of Early Voting. Dallas County Republicans got off to a strong start, but Democrats are scrambling to close the gap. In the most closely watched county race, district attorney Craig Watkins has been outspent by GOP challenger Susan Hawk. If you care about the outcome, get to the polls.

Bentley to Reunite With Nina Pham. The former Ebola patient/nurse’s dog has tested negative for the virus, and will be returned to Pham on Saturday. He’s been kept in quarantine since Pham’s apartment was decontaminated by health officials.

Last Man Seen With Missing Woman Says He’s Being Harassed. Enrique Arochi made the rounds of the local newscasts to publicly state that he had nothing to do with the disappearance of Christina Morris. Arochi was the last person spotted with Morris, who has not been seen since Labor Day weekend at the Shops at Legacy in Plano. He says he’s lost his job as a result of the police investigation into the case and that he’s being harassed by friends and family of Morris, who have been protesting outside his parents’ home.

Kissing Bugs in North Texas Carry Deadly Disease. Welcome to your new nightmare: “Little did she know then, she had just met a kissing bug. So named because it attacks exposed skin — sometimes near the mouth or eyes — while you’re sleeping. You may get swelling at the site of the bite, or you may not know what happened. But the kissing bug can carry something called Chagas disease, a potentially deadly condition, which attacks the heart. It may be decades before the damage is done. But much like mosquitoes and West Nile, not every kissing bug carries Chagas disease, sometimes called the ‘silent killer.'”

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Nina Pham Is Ebola-Free. Is She a Hero?

News this morning is that the first Dallas nurse to contract Ebola is now free of the virus and will be discharged from the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center today. This is, of course, great news.

Over on the Morning News site, Rudy Bush opines that Pham, along with the other Ebola nurse/patient, Amber Vinson, and sergeant-of-arms of the Canadian Parliament Kevin Vickers, who killed a terrorist gunman, should give us hope for western civilization:

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Nina Pham’s Dog Doesn’t Have Ebola

My favorite part about this morning’s press release from the city of Dallas is that they didn’t feel any need to explain who Bentley is on first reference. He’s become a one-name celebrity, like Madonna or Beyonce:

On Monday, October 21, samples from Bentley were sent to a lab to be tested for Ebola. The test results show that Bentley has tested negative for the virus. Specimen collection will be conducted again before the end of the 21-day quarantine period. Bentley will be monitored for a full 21-day period, similar to people exposed to the Ebola virus.

The City of Dallas Animal Services is overseeing Bentley’s care in partnership with the Texas Animal Health Commission, Texas A&M University and the College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Nina Pham, Bentley’s owner, continues to be cared for at the National Institutes of Health, NIH, in Maryland. The City of Dallas and DAS are communicating daily updates to Nina on the testing throughout the process.

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Highland Park ISD to ‘Deep-Clean’ Its Schools

Park Cities People reports:

Highland Park ISD just released a memo on behalf of superintendent Dawson Orr saying that the school district will commence a deep-cleaning of each campus this weekend and into next week. Custodial staff will also “step up” daily cleaning measures.

“We have checked the CDC guidelines for recommended cleaning products and the commercial grade anti-viral disinfectants currently in use on every campus exceed those recommendations,” Orr said in the memo.

In the spirit of rumor control, the district wished to emphasize that no member of the Bradfield Elementary community was on the Frontier Airlines flight with Ebola patient Amber Vinson — a parent and student did fly from Cleveland to Dallas on Oct. 13, but on a different plane.

You’ll remember that earlier there was some minor hysteria within the Bubble about the risks posed by County Judge Clay Jenkins, who came into contact with acquaintances of deceased Ebola patient Thomas Duncan and whose children attend the district’s Armstrong Elementary.

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Dallas: ‘City of Hate’ vs. ‘Plague City’

We like to poke fun at Dallas’ perennial striving to be “world class.” It’s a symptom of a kind of self-regarding, aspirational character that is not unique to Dallas, but which does manifest itself in this city in a particular way. Most newer, up-and-coming cities share a sense of wanting to prove their worth. But Dallas’ history has shaped this sensibility in its own way. Entrepreneurialism is the city’s birth right; social status is engrained as one of its highest civic values. But our scars, too, have contributed to the particular substance of our striving, self-conscious attempts to be regarded as great.

As we spent considerable ink exploring last year during the 50th anniversary of the John F. Kennedy assassination, the scars left by those terrible events affected Dallas in a particular way. Not every city could have been branded a “city of hate;” that was the result of the particular cultural and political soup that was simmering here at the time.  But also, not every city would have internalized that reputation – and its shame and sense of remorse – with quite the same measure of wounded-ness. Those wounds have taken decades to get over, and they have also contributed to the desire and drive to make Dallas a great city.

In the days following the Ebola breakout, I couldn’t help but think about the assassination.

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Leading Off (10/17/14)

The Latest on Ebola. Nurse Nina Pham was transferred to the National Institutes of Health in Maryland Thursday evening, with news copters following her trip every step of the way from Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital to Love Field, onto the plane and then off the plane to the NIH clinic. Just before she left Dallas, a video of her speaking with her physician was recorded and released to the public at her request. In it, she expresses her love for the Presby staff. Meanwhile, Dallas County leaders didn’t declare an emergency situation during their meeting yesterday, but they are requiring all health care workers exposed to Ebola to sign a document promising to avoid public transit and public places. If the workers don’t sign the “voluntary” agreements, orders will be issued restricting their movement. And, at the national level, President Obama called Gov. Rick Perry and vowed to offer Texas and Dallas all the help it needs in confronting the disease.

Superintendent Urged to Apologize to Trustee. At a meeting during which Mike Miles was seeking to explain his actions in response to what he termed a “crisis” at Dade Middle School, some in attendance pushed for the super to say he was sorry for having had district trustee Bernadette Nutall removed from the Dade campus on Monday. He did not.

Housing Prices Continue to Rise. The supply of available Dallas homes remains absurdly low, so the market values keep rising sharply, and now I’m feeling pretty screwed for not having jumped on the bottoming out a few years back.

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Mayor Rawlings Learns How to Be Humble in the Face of Ebola

Jim Schutze and I recorded a podcast yesterday afternoon in which we discuss the city’s reaction to the Ebola crisis (and DISD stuff). It’s very timely. It’s also sitting in the trunk of my girlfriend’s car, somewhere in her office parking garage. Since I won’t be able to get the pod up until tomorrow, here’s an example of one item we discussed: How officials have learned to temper their confidence, and how doing so actually inspires more confidence in the public.

Remember what Mayor Mike Rawlings said eight days ago:

Rawlings said that he remains [..]

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How Many New Ebola Cases Can We Handle Until We All Lose Our Junk?

So, Ebola is no longer a West African thing. We have the first U.S. transmission of the disease right here in Dallas. Officials are urging everyone to keep calm, but that’s probably difficult if you’re a neighbor of Nina Pham, the nurse who contracted Ebola from Thomas Eric Duncan, and police officers are knocking on the door at 5 a.m. with the message, “Good morning, Ebola’s on your block.” Then, I just saw some wacky, unreliable outlet reporting in my Facebook feed that Pham has a boyfriend who was admitted into the hospital. I can’t find any serious outlets reporting that news, but it was enough to get me thinking. It is probably likely that Pham is not the last case of Ebola in Dallas. We’re still waiting out the incubation period for Duncan’s family, and Pham’s infection starts a new cycle of friends and associates who may have had contact with infectious fluids. I could see this growing to 4 or 5 cases pretty quickly. So my question to you: at what point do we all lose our junk? How many cases of Ebola can we handle before everyone goes into panic mode? Five? Seven? Seventeen? Thirty-eight?

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Leading Off (10/10/14)

Baylor Hospital Could Lose Hundreds of Millions in Federal Funds. Inspectors for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recently found several instances of psychiatric patients walking away from the emergency department at Baylor University Medical Center. The violations potentially could cost the hospital up to $300 million in annual revenue it receives from Medicare, though Baylor is devising a plan to fix its problems, which it will submit to Texas Department of State Health Services by Monday.

Judge Rules Texas Voter ID Law Unconstitutional. U.S. District Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos issued an opinion late Thursday holding that the 2011 bill requiring photo identification for anyone to cast a valid election ballot places an undue burden on the right to vote and has a discriminatory effect on Hispanics and African-Americans. Attorney general Greg Abbott, who is also running for governor (in case you haven’t heard), announced immediately that his office would appeal the decision. It’s not clear yet how the ruling will affect the election that’s only a few weeks away.

Dallas Stars Lose Season Opener. They played great against a great team, but fell to the Chicago Blackhawks in a shootout.

Scam Targets Morning News Subscribers. Do not send $600 to an Oregon post office box to get the newspaper.

Today is Double Tenth National Day in Taiwan. It commemorates the start of the 1911 uprising that led to the collapse of the Qing Dynasty and establishment of the Republic of China. It’s also an office holiday for D Magazine Partners, celebrated in lieu of Columbus Day this weekend because of the horrific crimes Christopher Columbus committed against the native peoples of the Americas. (To be honest, I think it’s just because we decided we preferred getting a Friday off to getting a Monday off.)

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Frisco Patient May Have Ebola (But Probably Doesn’t)

Not a lot of information out yet, but WFAA and other outlets are reporting that a man showed up at a Frisco CareNow clinic exhibiting symptoms of Ebola. A city of Frisco spokeswoman says the patient claims to have had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the man who contract Ebola in Liberia and died in Dallas this morning.

It’s important to remember this case isn’t confirmed yet.

UPDATE, 2:59 p.m.: Our own Matt Goodman, of D Healthcare Daily fame, reports that Dallas County Health and Human Services spokeswoman Erikka Neroes just told him that the county is confident they’re monitoring everyone who had contact with Duncan. If this new Frisco patient were being monitored, he would have a document saying so, which hasn’t been mentioned by the Frisco authorities. Matt’s trying to confirm with them.

UPDATE, 3:03 p.m.:WFAA has confirmed a vehicle roped off outside the clinic is registered to a deputy who accompanied county officials into the apartment where Duncan stayed in Dallas. The deputy was very vocal about not wearing protective gear during the visit.”

UPDATE:, 3:13 p.m.: Matt asked Neroes what they tell someone they’re monitoring to do if they develop symptoms, and she replied, “To seek medical attention right away and then contact the local health department and, I mean, if they go to seek medical attention, the medical community is aware of the steps and what’s at stake.”

When she’s talking about steps, she’s talking about this algorithm.

Matt about whether the people being monitored are being advised to go to a hospital or if they can go to a freestanding ED or an urgent care clinic, as this guy apparently did. She didn’t know, and she’s checking on that.

Denton County has apparently taken the lead on this, though. She won’t tell Matt if anyone they’re monitoring is in Collin or Denton County, just that there are 48 of them.

UPDATE, 3:30 p.m.: False alarm? Centers for Disease Control director Dr. Tom Frieden just now during a presser said the CareNow patient had “neither direct contact with Ebola nor definite symptoms of Ebola.”

UPDATE, 3:54 p.m., Matt is all over it. He got this info from the press office of the Texas Department of State Health Services: “This individual was not one of the contacts of the patient and has no fever. We understand that anyone near the Dallas response will be very concerned about any health issues they experience, and we want them to report those issues so we can check them out quickly. We’re closely tracking those whose contact put them at risk of potential infection, and none of those people have reported any symptoms of Ebola. The disease is spread only through direct contact with blood, secretions or other bodily fluids or exposure to contaminated objects, such as needles.”

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Who Is Clay Jenkins?

Clay Jenkins, a freshman politician in an obscure political office, is back in the national spotlight thanks to the Ebola scare. Yesterday he described Dallas’ response to Ebola to Rachel Maddow as one of “unapologetic compassion.” If those words sound familiar — Maddow, compassion — that’s because this is the second time Jenkins has made the network news rounds. In July, he controversially tried to open county facilities to migrant children.

But who is this guy? That’s what I tried to find out in this profile from the October issue.  Once labeled John Wiley Price’s “water boy,” he has emerged as a local political force. He was a hell raiser in his youth, survived a near-death car wreck, and, after some early term muffs, has demonstrated a knack for the political hardball of county politics. But will he even win his reelection this November? Here’s a taste:

In college at Baylor, Jenkins continued to distinguish himself dubiously. He was arrested twice, once for reckless driving after he led Baylor security and Waco police on a car chase he’d planned and a second time for criminal trespassing in a women’s dorm during a panty raid. Strangely enough, he was never arrested for his role as the famous Baylor Pie Man, a hit man for a student-organized ring that offered to throw pies in people’s faces—professors, ex-boyfriends—for a fee. 

Read the whole thing here.

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Daily Mail Paints a Different Picture of How We’re Handling Ebola Case

Most of the local Ebola coverage I’ve seen has been along the lines of: “Everyone relax. We’ve got this.” Though I wasn’t able to watch TV last night, because I didn’t have power. Have the TV stations gotten a bit more alarmist? An alert FrontBurnervian points us to this story from the Daily Mail. Makes it seems like we’re not exactly running a tight ship. People coming and going from the apartment of the patient. Something like 100 people exposed to the guy. That story mentions the CDC hiring a crew to power-wash around the apartment. I don’t know what the Gateway Pundit is, but they’re saying that the power-washing of Ebola vomit on the sidewalk wasn’t exactly the most sanitary operation. But I’m sure everything’s going to be okay. Right?

UPDATE (11:10) I wrote the above before I looked at the paper today. The Morning News is showing what it does best and what no other local media organization can do like it does: flood the zone. They’ve got reporters covering every angle of the news, from the scene at the patient’s apartment to the missteps made by Presby. Very solid work. I was especially taken by this atmospheric piece written by Avi Selk.

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Leading Off (10/3/14)

Storm Wreaks Havoc. The high winds, rain, and hail that blew through North Texas Thursday afternoon left hundreds of thousands without power during at least some portion of last night, temporarily halted DART train service, knocked down trees, collapsed a building in the Fort Worth Stockyards, and tore the roof off a dorm at Arlington Baptist College, among other widespread damage. Having lost power, UT-Arlington canceled all classes Friday, all Arlington ISD schools are closed, as well as 40 Dallas ISD campuses and some schools in Mesquite and Richardson. DART hopes to be fully operational by this morning rush hour, with red, orange, and green lines normal, but only bus service available on the eastern stretch of the blue line.

Ebola Patient’s Family Held Under Armed Guard. Those who shared a Vickery Meadow apartment with Thomas Eric Duncan, the man diagnosed with the virulent disease, are under an order not to leave their home or receive visitors. However, one of the family’s children attended a DISD school on Wednesday morning. In order to enforce compliance, a guard has been stationed on site. Meanwhile, Texas Health Presbyterian issued a release Thursday evening to explain that a failure of two of its record-keeping systems (one for nurses, another for doctors) to communicate resulted in key information about Duncan’s recent travels not being considered during his initial Sept. 25 visit to the hospital, which led to his release.

Texas Can Enact Strict Abortion Restrictions. A federal judge’s decision overturning legal requirements for abortion facilities is under appeal. On Thursday the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the state can go ahead and enforce those measures even as the appeal process is under way.

Trinity Toll Road Supporters Have Gone Silent. This follows reports that a) the road isn’t projected to significantly affect traffic congestion and b) that the city council is likely under no obligation to fund it. Councilman Scott Griggs, who opposes the $1.5 billion, 9-mile route, has a theory on why North Central Texas Council of Governments transportation director Michael Morris and others have been unavailable for weeks to make comments on the issue, “I imagine they’re trying to come up with a new reason for it,” he said.

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Five Dallas ISD Kids Were In Contact With Ebola Patient, But Don’t Panic

Before the news: There is an infinitesimal chance of you or your kids or your family getting Ebola.

Breathe. Now: A who’s-who of state and local officials gathered at Texas Health Presbyterian Dallas a few minutes ago and shared a few updates on the public health response. Look for the full write-up on D Healthcare Daily shortly.

As you’re surely aware by now, a man who traveled to Dallas from Liberia was diagnosed with Ebola on Tuesday. It’s the first case in the U.S. ever. He’s been in isolation since Sunday, although he initially sought care two days prior and was sent home. Dr. Ed Goodman, the hospital’s chief epidemiologist, said he was feverish and suffering from abdominal pains on Sept. 26. He was prescribed antibiotics and discharged, even though he told medical officials he had been in Liberia. Why he was sent home is under investigation.

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