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Handling Ebola Cases Will Cost 'Many Millions,' City Says

By Jeff Mays | October 29, 2014 11:29am
 City officials plan to seek federal assistance to pay costs associated with prepping for and handling confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola because they expect the tab to be in the "many millions" of dollars.
City Says Cost of Handling Ebola Cases WIll Cost 'Many Millions'
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EAST HARLEM — City officials are bracing for a multimillion-dollar price tag for handling confirmed and suspected cases of Ebola — and plan to ask the feds for help paying the bill, officials said.

"The city will be seeking federal assistance," Marti Adams, a spokeswoman for Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in a statement Tuesday. The Office of Management and Budget, which is responsible for overseeing the city's coffers, "is now gathering the costs, and future expenditures are anticipated. A full accounting of the costs will be released publicly when available," she added.

Costs include transporting potential Ebola victims to the hospital, decontamination and cleanup and training emergency responders, officials said. The responsibilities are expected to cost the city "many millions" of dollars, they said.

 Dr. Craig Spencer, a Harlem resident who worked for Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, tested positive for Ebola on Oct. 23, 2014.
Ebola in New York City
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However, de Blasio has said the cost of handling the arrival of Ebola in New York City is not his top priority.

"Look, in a crisis, obviously, we are focused on doing what we have to do to keep our people safe. So, cost is something we don’t worry about when it comes to keeping our people safe," de Blasio said Monday.

"This is the priority of this government right now, to address this crisis."

The city relies on trained FDNY/EMS HazMat teams using special gear to safely take potential victims to Bellevue Hospital, one of four city hospitals designated by the state to handle Ebola cases.

The city also called in hospital staff, EMS, FDNY and NYPD emergency workers to spend weeks training to be able to handle a suspected Ebola case, the mayor said previously.

Each ambulance run also requires a decontamination unit, Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. The unit that transported Dr. Craig Spencer of Hamilton Heights to Bellevue also had a police escort.

A 5-year-old boy from The Bronx who had recently returned from Guinea and had a fever was also transferred to Bellevue by a Hazardous Materials Tactical Unit.

In addition, the city is responsible for monitoring individuals who return from one of the three Ebola-stricken West African nations daily for the 21-day incubation period, under the new Ebola protocols in place from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

De Blasio said he did not know how many people are currently being monitored by the city's health department.

But the mayor said on Monday that the monitoring can be handled by existing Department of Health staff and supplemented with workers from the Office of Emergency Management. Hospitals outside of the public hospital system have also volunteered staff to help if necessary.

Contractors for the Department of Health also decontaminated Spencer's Hamilton Heights apartment and other locations he traveled to out of an "abundance of caution."

DOH referred to Adams' statement when asked about the cost of its Ebola operations.

Spencer, who contracted the virus while working with Ebola patients in Guinea as part of Doctors Without Borders, remains in serious but stable condition.

"He's got some tough days ahead," de Blasio said, explaining that Spencer's condition could worsen before it improved.

Spencer's fiancée Morgan Dixon and two other friends who had close contact with the doctor will remain under quarantine for a total of 21 days. None of the trio has shown any Ebola symptoms.

The 5-year-old boy and his mother were being held in isolation but the child tested negative for Ebola again Tuesday and has been removed from isolation.