DALLAS, Texas — Liberal Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins called an official state of emergency “a tool in his toolbox,” something he didn’t want to have to take out and use unless absolutely necessary when the Dallas County Commissioners Court met in a special session on the afternoon of Thursday, October 16 to address the ongoing Ebola crisis. However, he joked about others wanting him to enact Marshal Law. Still, he may already have the ability to effectively enact a state of emergency.
Jenkins told reporters following the meeting, “I have the power already in the code to sign a document that I keep with me and do that.”
He said that he appreciated the power that state and federal agencies have vested him with, claiming, “we don’t need those at this time but we do have the power to unilaterally act,” adding that through the state and federal partners, he has the “ability to do the things that need to get done.”
He then steered the narrative away from the general public and towards concern for those on Ebola watch. “If you didn’t come in contact with bodily fluids of an Ebola victim, then you don’t have Ebola.” He also said the idea that “a contact of a contact of a contact is going to get Ebola is by definition scientific insanity.”
Dallas County Health and Human Services (DCHHS) Director Zachary Thompson pointed out during the meeting that his concern was also the 2.4 million Dallas County residents and their understanding that the DCHHS is “committed to protecting them.”
For now, Jenkins indicated that his authority encompasses 135 contacts being monitored for Ebola, including the 75 healthcare workers at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas. This also included the original 48 that Duncan’s immediate family, girlfriend and son are counted in. Jenkins didn’t identify the remaining contacts being tracked.
“The buck will stop with me on those 135 contacts, said Jenkins.”
For now, the only ones under a self-imposed quarantine are those 135 people.
Jenkins called the hospital workers now being monitored “hometown healthcare heroes. These are not criminals. These are people who have been put in an unenviable situation. They need to feel an outpouring of support and not feel like we’re going to declare Marshal law.”
Jenkins cited his track record with West Nile virus as a similar emergency. He said, “we have a good team a when it comes to these emergencies. “There is no politics when these things happen.” He pointed out that he’s a Democrat and Governor Rick Perry is a Republican but they are working together. In addition, he said, “I found the White House to be a good partner.”
My “body” will be at the command center at Texas Health in Dallas, Jenkins declared, meaning he will move his office to Ebola ground zero because he felt it was not sufficient to be a cell phone call away. He indicated that he and the leadership team is working 20 hours a day.
Not until 21 days from their last exposure will the quarantined be able to freely roam. “We are agreeing they aren’t going on any form of public transportation. We are agreeing that they won’t go where people congregate — public spaces and we are agreeing they will self-monitor and allow us to monitor them. He said all willingly signed a binding legal document solidifying their agreement to quarantine requirements.
He pointed out that these individuals are not flight risks, they are the hometown healthcare heroes who want to do this.
Jenkins said that he, Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings and Sen. John Cornyn met on Wednesday, October 15 and agreed this isn’t Dallas’ Ebola outbreak.
He called it, “America’s Ebola outbreak.”
The state told Jenkins “don’t let money stand in the way.” He said, “we expect and hope that our federal partners are going to carry the financial burden after this is over with.” He then clarified, federal and state partners, then said federal partners are “spending a ton of money.”
As far as disasters or emergencies go, Jenkins estimated, “We’re out about a half a million dollars, I believe, so far.”