Calm Down, Everyone,|Texas Officials Say

DALLAS (CN) – Texas’ top public health official blasted school districts for closing schools, and Dallas officials have targeted Nov. 7 as the “magic date” for the end of the Ebola scare.
     Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services, said “there is no reason for schools to close” or cancel activities.
     “Children who reside in a home where a family member is being monitored for Ebola should not be excluded from school attendance unless the student was directly exposed,” Lakey said Sunday . “Because no Ebola patients have been present at a Texas school, there is no reason to close or clean a building or bus beyond regular cleaning procedures for schools.”
     The Royse City Independent School District, northeast of Dallas, closed Davis Elementary and Ruth Cherry Intermediate schools on Friday out of an “abundance of caution.”
     An unidentified nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, who treated an Ebola-infected nurse, lives with students from both of those schools.
     “This person has been classified as ‘low risk,'” the district said Friday. “As a symptom-free person, there is no risk to anyone in their household or to anyone in their household attending school.”
     In central Texas, the Belton Independent School District closed North Belton Middle School, Sparta Elementary and the Belton Early Childhood School on Thursday for cleaning.
     Belton Superintendent Susan Kincannon said last week that two students were aboard Frontier Airlines Flight 1143 to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, as was nurse Amber Vinson, 29, who later tested positive for Ebola.
     The parents of the unidentified students are voluntarily keeping them home for the 21-day Ebola incubation period, as well.
     School officials in Maine have faced criticism for placing an elementary school staff member in Strong, Maine, on paid leave for 21 days after parents expressed concern about her recent travel to Dallas, though she had no contact with anyone infected with Ebola or anywhere near Presbyterian.
     “At this time, we have no information to suggest that this staff member has been in contact with anyone who has been exposed to Ebola,” Maine School Administrative District No. 38 said in a statement Monday. “However, the district and the staff member understand the parents’ concerns.”
     Ebola cannot be spread by someone without symptoms, Lackey said.
     “Ebola is only spread through direct contact with a person who is sick with the disease or their blood, secretions or other bodily fluids,” he said.
     Four of the five Dallas Independent School District students who have cleared quarantine returned to classes Monday morning, the district said.
     “While we had planned on them coming back to school Tuesday, they were obviously eager to return back to the school environment and decided on their own to attend,” DISD Superintendent Mike Miles said.
     “Because they have been cleared by medical authorities and pose no health risk to any students or staff, we have no intent on sending them home. Their interest in getting back into school is encouraging.”
     Three quarantined students from nearby Richardson Independent School District will be transferring to DISD schools, Miles added.
     The 48 people exposed to the late Thomas Eric Duncan before his hospitalization were released from 21-day isolation periods on Monday, much to the relief of Dallas officials.
     At a news conference Monday morning, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings called it a “milestone day.”
     “It was a hurdle we needed to clear, [but] there are other hurdles we need to jump,” he said.
     He said “we are still holding our breath” until Nov. 7, the day the last known Ebola contact will be released from isolation.
     About 120 contacts are still being monitored for signs of Ebola, according to the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta. Seventy-five of those contacts are Presbyterian medical staffers who treated Duncan before his death on Oct. 8.

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