(CNN – Oct. 2, 2014) — The sweat-stained sheets of Thomas Eric Duncan, the first person diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, still on her bed, a woman quarantined in a Dallas apartment said Thursday that she desperately wants her family’s nightmare to end.
“We can’t wait to be over with everything,” the woman, who asked to be identified only by her first name, Louise, told CNN’s Anderson Cooper. “We can’t wait.”
While Duncan is in isolation at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, his partner and three others have been stuck in a Dallas apartment since his diagnosis this week. Louise told CNN that authorities had her sign paperwork stating “if we step outside, they are going to take us … to court (because) we’ll have committed a crime.”
So there she has stayed, along with her 13-year-old son and two nephews in their 20s. But it hasn’t been easy.
Louise says she is checking her temperature every hour, and based on that and everything else, isn’t sick. She expressed frustration being confined nonetheless, since people are only contagious with Ebola if they are symptomatic.
Duncan’s girlfriend has been frustrated in other ways as well.
She said no one brought food Thursday to four people who can’t leave to get it themselves, at least until later in the day. There was also the matter of their power going out, which was likely related to strong storms that rolled through the area. Then, of course, there’s the idea of living in a place that — just a few days ago — was home to an Ebola sufferer.
Her 35-year-old daughter brought over Clorox to help clean the house, and she sealed up Duncan’s dirty clothes and towels in a bag.
“But (authorities) said we shouldn’t throw anything away until they can get back with me,” Louise said.
That hadn’t happened as of Thursday evening. That’s when men in trucks from Cleaning Guys, a company that specializes in hazmat and biohazard cleaning services, showed up to head inside the apartment.
Once everything is cleaned up, even if plenty of food arrives, Louise’s ordeal is far from over.
First off, there’s the fact Duncan — who flew from Liberia to visit her and family members — is still in the hospital, fighting a disease that’s already killed thousands in West Africa.
And Louise, her son and her nephews must wait 21 days from when Duncan first showed symptoms before they can leave the apartment. That’s because Ebola can be in a person for that long before it manifests itself, and someone starts to feel sick.
Reflecting on it all, Louise said Thursday, “I’m just hanging in there, depending on God to save our lives.”
County official: Quarantined four should be relocated
If it were up to the Dallas County director of homeland security, the four people quarantined shouldn’t be stuck in the apartment at all.
Judge Clay Jenkins, also director of the county’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said officials are working on that relocation after Duncan’s partner told CNN of being forced to live with distressing living conditions.
Jenkins acknowledged “some hygiene issues” in the apartment.
“I would like to see those people moved to better living conditions,” Jenkins told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Thursday afternoon. “We are working on that. I would like to move them five minutes ago.”
Jenkins acknowledged problems with Louise’s apartment but defended the overall government response.
“We have some hygiene issues that we are addressing in that apartment,” Jenkins said earlier in the day. “Those people in the apartment are part of Dallas County, and they’re going to be treated with utmost respect and dignity in this unusual situation.
“We are working to get the response, which has been a good response, strengthened every hour of the day,” the judge said.
Partner: Hospital staff were told Duncan from Liberia
Louise, a caregiver, sometimes refers to Duncan as her husband — even though they’re not legally married — and sometimes as the father of at least one of her children, CNN’s Anderson Cooper said.
When Duncan arrived in the United States on September 20, “he didn’t tell me that he came in contact with anybody with Ebola,” Louise said. Nor was he showing any signs of the virus.
But things changed three days later, when Duncan got a headache and a fever, according to his partner.
On September 25, she took him to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital where, Louise said, hospital staff were told twice that Duncan had come from Liberia. But “they did not ask” him anything about Ebola, including whether he’d had contact with anyone with the disease in Africa, according to Louise.
Duncan was taken by ambulance to the hospital on Sunday, September 28, after Louise’s 35-year-old daughter saw him “shaking really hard” and with a fever when she came by to give him tea.
Louise said she went to the hospital herself soon thereafter, seeing Duncan “through the glass.”
It was then that health officials first told her that medical officials first told her that her partner may have Ebola.
“I was so (scared),” Louise said.
Questions about response
CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta said the continuing presence of the sheets, on which Duncan may have transmitted the virus through sweating, are disturbing.
“With the sheets still being on the bed, that obviously is a concern,” Gupta said. “We’ve talked about the fact that this virus can live outside the body, can live on surfaces. It’s unlikely for it to be transmitted to someone else that way.
“But why take a chance?” Gupta added.
Wilfred Smallwood, Duncan’s half-brother, said his 21-year-old son is among those quarantined in Louise’s apartment.
“He lived there with them, too,” Smallwood said Thursday of his son. “I just talked to them this morning — the woman and my son and all of them.”
His son told him that “we all be OK,” Smallwood said.
Duncan came to the United States for the first time September 20 so that he could “help his son” and visit his family, Smallwood said.
Smallwood said he became disturbed when told of Louise’s accounts about the his brother’s sweat-stained sheets in the apartment and the lack of food.
“I’m skeptical now” about the CDC response, Smallwood said. “That worries me now, yes.”
David Lakey, the Texas health commissioner, also said a crew will be cleaning and sanitizing the apartment.
Nonetheless, Gupta expressed alarm about the belated visit by the CDC waste contractor to Louise’s apartment.
“It is hard to believe (the oversight) and there aren’t good explanations here,” Gupta said.
“As to why it already hadn’t happened … I would be curious,” Gupta said. “Is this a dropped ball? We don’t know.”
One Ebola expert, Dr. Alexander van Tulleken, also said the federal response to the first Ebola case on U.S. soil seemed troubling. “So far we don’t seem to reacting as well as we could,” he said.
About Louise and her family, van Tulleken added: “It doesn’t sound like they’re being looked after at the moment.”