Man In Plain Clothes During Ebola Patient Transfer Identified

Thursday, October 16th 2014, 3:19 pm
By: News 9

Dallas nurse Amber Vinson was transferred to Atlanta's Emory University Hospital Wednesday for ongoing treatment after being diagnosed with Ebola. She was helped from an ambulance onto a waiting plane by four medical workers in the now-familiar white hazmat suits, but there was one other person on the tarmac.

According to CBS 11 News in Dallas, questions about who the man wearing plain clothes and carrying a clipboard might be poured in.

"On social media, and on the CBS 11 News phone lines, the biggest question became -- who was the guy not wearing protective hazmat gear?" said CBS Dallas.

Later Thursday, the mystery man, who boarded the plane after all the others and reemerged on the tarmac in Atlanta, was identified as a medical safety coordinator with Phoenix Air, the U.S. transportation company that has provided air ambulance services for several Ebola patients.

A company executive told CBS News the safety coordinator doesn't wear gear so he can act as the team's eyes and ears on the tarmac. They're trained to keep a safe distance from patients. Phoenix Air says it has transported 11 Ebola patients and no crew members have contracted the virus.

Contacted by CBS Dallas, a CDC official said earlier that it appeared the man had maintained a safe distance from Vinson while working on the tarmacs at both ends.

The CDC official stressed to CBS Dallas that only the workers in protective clothing were coming into direct contact with Vinson, and that the man didn't appear to breach any of the protocols put in place for the handling of patients with the highly infectious disease.

Still, the incident prompted questions.

"(It makes) no sense whatsoever," CBS News chief medical correspondent Dr. Jon LaPook said on "CBS This Morning." "There's a moment where it looks like he comes in pretty close contact with one of the men in the hazmat suits. ... That's not okay. Fortunately Nurse Vinson is in a protective suit, so maybe there's no virus on the outside there, but that's not protocol, that's for sure."