New York City is running point in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s defense against Ebola. As part of its efforts to revise its Ebola response protocol, the CDC co-sponsored the training of about 5,000 healthcare workers in new techniques for protecting themselves when treating Ebola patients. The educational session took place Tuesday at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center in Hell’s Kitchen and was streamed live across the country.
Just the night before the event, the CDC revised its safety protocols for health workers in response to two nurses at Dallas’s Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital contracting Ebola from Thomas Duncan, a Liberian man who traveled to Dallas last month and was later diagnosed with the virus. The Associated Press reports that former CDC guidelines were based on protocols for managing Ebola patients in Africa.
Revised CDC guidelines feature a first-world upgrade that includes changes to the protective gear, or personal protective equipment (PPE), for healthcare workers: respirators, hoods that conceal the head and neck, disposable full-face shields that have replaced the old goggles, and many more. The agency also recommends constant training in using the garb and urges workers to always have “trained” supervision when they wear or take off their PPE.
Below is the live demonstration from the event on how healthcare workers should suit up when treating Ebola victims (watch until 2:04:37):
“One healthcare worker getting Ebola while caring for a patient is too many,” said Dr. Arjun Srinivasan, the CDC’s associate director for preventing healthcare-related infections, as he stressed the importance of the new measures.
Governor Andrew Cuomo launched the nearly four-hour session by reminding the audience of past epidemics — like anthrax in 2001 and HIV in the 1980s — that the city and country had weathered through awareness and teamwork.
“When there is a challenge, nobody steps up like New Yorkers step up,” Cuomo said, underscoring the resilience of New Yorkers to the gathering of medical and non-medical staffers, who concurred with a roar of applause. “What is going to kill this disease [Ebola] is knowledge, is training, is preparation,” he added.
Mayor Bill de Blasio followed suit and implored the workers to spread the word to other members of their communities so that help can be given to all, regardless of their ability to pay or their immigration status.
“We do not want anyone suffering in silence,” he said.
While some healthcare workers saw the forum as essential and helpful, others admit that there’s still one hurdle that affects their confidence in handling Ebola patients. “I think fear was the biggest obstacle to overcome,” said Steven Narvaez, a representative of 1199SEIU United Healthcare Workers East, a union of healthcare personnel. “Seeing the papers and newspapers every day has everyone worried and concerned.”
But Narvaez says the quality information and training from the session will help put the minds of his union members — about 350,000 of them — at ease. “As was mentioned in the forum, updates and training will be coming at frequent intervals, to keep our members and healthcare professionals in New York up to date,” he said.
The training exercise comes only days after the CDC released a report emphasizing the need for New York City to be prepared for Ebola because it is a “frequent port of entry for travelers from West Africa.”
Meanwhile, 43 people who came in contact with Duncan while he was in Texas were cleared on Monday after 21 days of close observation. The Texas Health Department is still monitoring 120 people.