Ebola NYC 2014: Nothing Fazes New Yorkers, Not Even Doctor's Diagnosis

New York City residents are famously hard to faze. They endure terrorist attacks, hurricanes, bedbugs, overcrowded subways and tiny, overpriced apartments to live in one of the most famous cities in the world. Ebola, the deadly disease that has ravaged West Africa and just recently arrived in the U.S., is just one more thing not to worry about, New Yorkers said Friday.  

“I know I’ll be fine and I’m not getting Ebola or anything, but it’s still kind of scary that it’s here,” East Village college student Kristen Ayers said as she sat on a stoop on East 10th Street. “But I think people should realize that we’re not all going to get Ebola now just because of this one guy.”

Across New York City Friday, Ebola was the No. 1 topic of conversation after the diagnosis of the city’s first Ebola patient. The details of Dr. Craig Spencer’s personal life quickly became common knowledge, from the fact that he recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea, to the symptoms he experienced and even the name of the Brooklyn bowling alley he visited Wednesday night. Many New Yorkers said that while they were somewhat concerned about Ebola spreading across the city, they generally knew there was no need to panic because contracting the deadly disease is difficult.

Harlem construction worker Manuel Soto said he worried about whether the American health system would be able to handle a potential outbreak, but that he wasn’t letting it go to his head. “I hope they know what they’re doing,” he said as he stood with a co-worker, killing time before heading to a construction site on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. “I just don’t want it to get out of hand like it is in Africa, but the hospitals here are way better than they are there, so I think it will be OK.”

Some New Yorkers expressed anger or disbelief that Spencer went bowling at the Gutter in Brooklyn Wednesday night, went to a coffee shop, hired Uber cars and more in the days prior to his Thursday diagnosis at Bellevue Hospital. Retiree Sylvia Seigal, a longtime resident of East Village, said one of the first things she did Friday morning was read the latest developments about Spencer on the Internet. Drinking a cup of coffee near Tompkins Square Park Friday morning, she said she had conflicted feelings about the situation.

“He seems like he was trying to do the right thing, but then he’s going all over the place when he knows he’s not feeling well,” she said. “I know it’s hard to spread Ebola, but he really should have just stayed home so we could avoid the whole issue about where he was or wasn’t and who he might have come in contact with. … I’m not too worried myself, but I really do hope it ends soon.”

Diana Barbieri was watching dogs play at the Tompkins Square Park dog run Friday morning. “The problem is that he went bowling and out for coffee and everything, and everywhere he went he could have left fluids on a railing or a toilet and that’s what’s scary,” she said. “I’m trying not to freak out about it, but it’s kind of hard not be a little scared.”

Staff Writer

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