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In stricken doctor's steps, many but not all assured Ebola risk is slight

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito takes a photo

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito takes a photo of Mayor Bill de Blasio as they take the A train back to City Hall after delivering an update on the Ebola patient at Bellevue Hospital, Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. Photo Credit: Bryan Smith

Waiting at 14th Street for an uptown No. 1 train Friday, Londoner Vanessa Jackson pronounced herself puzzled that anyone could fear riding the same subway lines as the doctor diagnosed the day before with Ebola.

"Don't be irrational!" she said of Ebola contagion fears on a line such as the A, 1 and L that the doctor had taken. "Get the facts. You'd have to be pretty close, or intimate with the person, to get Ebola."

Gripping a metal pole on an A train, Sam Purdy, 26, a middle school teacher, said, "There's more of a risk of falling down and twisting your ankle by not holding the railing."

Kevin Ortiz, a spokesman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, said there was "normal ridership throughout the system" Friday.

The MTA said of Ebola patient Dr. Craig Spencer, "There is no indication he emitted any bodily fluids on the subway."

Many, if not all, New Yorkers and visitors accepted officials' assurances that the risks were close to nil.

The High Line -- the elevated greenway on old train tracks on Manhattan's far west side that Spencer, 33, visited late Monday afternoon -- was bustling.

"What are you going to do, freak out about every place he went?" said Alyssa Ierardo, 23, of suburban Philadelphia, who was checking out a colorful sculpture near the park's 23rd Street entrance. "Panic isn't going to make anything better."

But Sylvia, a 91-year-old Brooklynite who didn't want to give her surname, had pause.

"Oh dear," she said, when told about Spencer's visit. "I'll go home and wash my hands."

Her friend Joan said officials' statements did not allay her worries.

"I don't exactly believe everything my government tells me," the 71-year-old retired banker from Brooklyn said. "They said it was safe to breathe the air on Sept. 11."

There was a line Friday for the $4 iced coffees and $5 caffe mochas at the High Line's Blue Bottle Coffee kiosk that Spencer had visited.

"I'm not concerned about Ebola," said Jessica Mena, an economist visiting from Chile, sipping a macchiato.

A line snaked out the door and onto the sidewalk in front of The Meatball Shop on Greenwich Avenue, another place Spencer had visited.

Near Williamsburg's The Gutter, the bowling alley Spencer patronized the evening before he developed a fever, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams convened a news conference to urge patronage. Adams said he was confident that the venue was safe, even if a visitor happens upon a ball Spencer may have used.

"I'm going to come in and put my fingers in the same holes, to carry a bowling ball, and enjoy the game," he said.

Still, the not-to-worry message hadn't reached everyone. Just after Mayor Bill de Blasio and health officials finished a news conference at the Office of Emergency Management to convey how hard it is to get Ebola under normal circumstances, a janitor mopping an agency bathroom told a reporter to be sure to wash his hands.

"You gotta," he said, "with Ebola. "

With Joan Gralla

and Bloomberg News


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