AUSTIN, Texas — In a video message on the Dallas Convention Center and Visitors Bureau website, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings shared a message for tourists and event planners who may be avoiding the city over fears about Ebola, appealing to them to still consider visiting. Unfortunately for Rawlings, a Democrat first elected in 2011, Ebola-related news that has broken since the video was posted on Friday undermines the credibility of several of his statements, even making them sound almost comic.
First, two employees of Dallas Area Rapid Transportation (DART), the city’s public transportation system, were sent home Friday after self-reporting possible exposure to Ebola, as reported by Breitbart Texas. One employee was related to a health care worker at Texas Presbyterian Hospital who had treated Thomas Eric Duncan, the first Ebola patient in the U.S. who died on October 8, and another was on the flight with Amber Vinson from Cleveland to Dallas. Neither employee was known to have had direct exposure to Ebola, but the second employee was a bus operator who had already completed a work shift before getting a call notifying him that he had been on that flight. News that Vinson had flown while she had a fever broke on Wednesday.
Then, a woman, who reportedly had stayed for a few days at the same apartment complex as Duncan, fell ill at the DART station at White Rock after exiting a train and spit on the platform, as reported by WFAA. Original news reports about the incident said that she had vomited, but officials later corrected that to say that she had only spit. Regardless, the Ebola virus can be in any bodily fluid, so the precautions taken afterwards did not need to substantially change. The hazardous materials team from a local fire station were dispatched to the station to decontaminate the area, the train she rode was taken out of service, and the White Rock Station also was closed Saturday. The woman, who reportedly had a low-grade fever, was taken to an area hospital for evaluation.
These two incidents illustrate the risks of elected officials issuing statements in the middle of rapidly developing news stories, and how long Mayor Rawlings and the Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau will continue to promote this video remains in question.
“First of all, Dallas is safe,” says Rawlings at the beginning of the video. The mayor assures potential visitors that they were “making sure” that anyone “who might come down with the symptoms” was “isolated and being monitored every day so in case they are symptomatic, they are staying away from the public, staying away from transportation, staying away from hotels, staying away from restaurants, and they’ll be in the hospital as quickly as they show symptoms.”
Rawlings pleads with those planning vacations and conventions to make their decisions “based on fact.” “If you have any doubt, I would ask you to just wait a week, let’s see how this works out, and you’ll see in the long run that Dallas is gonna be OK.”
“Thank you for considering Dallas,” Rawlings says at the end of the video. “We love our citizens. I would never put them at risk. We love our visitors. I would never put them at risk. I promise you that.”
Rawlings seems to be unfazed by recent news developments, with his twitter account reposting the video shortly after 4 p.m. Central Time on Saturday:
Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings Gives Ebola Virus Update http://t.co/RJ73MlD58u
— Mayor Mike Rawlings (@Mike_Rawlings) October 18, 2014
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker.