DALLAS — More than three dozen people who were monitored for the past three weeks for possible contact with the Ebola virus were cleared Monday to return to work or school, leaving 133 others still being watched for symptoms of the disease, Dallas County officials said.
Forty-three people who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who died Oct. 8 at a Texas hospital, did not develop symptoms and were being permitted to return to their everyday routines after waiting out the mandatory 21-day incubation period, Dallas officials said Monday.
The group includes eight schoolchildren, the Dallas schools superintendent, Mike Miles, said.
All the people whose contacts were traced to Duncan or Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital — where two nurses, Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson, were infected — will end monitoring by Nov. 7, Texas officials said.
Another group — 13 people — were directed to stay home because they were seated near Vinson on commercial airline flights; she had traveled ?to Cleveland to organize her wedding.
Vinson’s interactions with the county and federal health authorities continued to be a point of friction. Her family issued a statement Sunday clarifying that she had reported her temperature at least three times to the county health department.
Judge Clay Jenkins, the Dallas County chief executive, apologized Monday to Vinson, who was not prevented from flying on a commercial aircraft despite reporting an elevated temperature.
“I have repeatedly said that was a mistake,” Jenkins said, adding that it caused panic and forced many people to miss work and school.
Jenkins said the incident persuaded policymakers to move their operations to the hospital so they could be closer to such discussions.
“There is a thin line between science and policy,” he said.
He urged the community to treat those leaving isolation with compassion and to resist the urge to regard them as dangerous disease vectors.
“Please treat these people with dignity,” Jenkins said. “I am extremely concerned.”
Jenkins insisted that the 43 people -Duncan’s fiancée, her family, friends, health care workers and others who came into contact with him — are not a danger to the community.
“Having grown up around animals, I have seen herds of horses spooked by snakes. I have also seen them spooked by a beer can shining in the sun,” Jenkins said. “This is more of a beer can than a snake.”