Palestine City Manager Urges Citizens to Remain Calm as ‘West Nile Virus’ Claims Four More Lives
PALESTINE, TX—Palestine City Manager Wendy Ellis continued to urge residents in the city to stay calm despite the death of four more citizens from the deadly West Nile Virus that was first reported to have claimed one life last week. Two police officers and one fire fighter are hospitalized with the illness as the official death toll rises to five and is expected to rise even more as the city has no solution in sight to battle the mutation of the virus that is unique to the Wellscreek Wastewater Treatment Facility.
The city manager’s words were heard by council during Monday night’s meeting during which the 2015 budget was approved, but without funds to pay for more hazardous material suits. Currently, Ellis is the only city employee who has been provided with a hazmat suit, a suit she was wearing during Monday’s meeting.
“People just need to calm down,” she said, “We are aware that people are concerned and we understand that concern, but right now money is tight and we have some raises to give out to a few select employees of the city and until those important tasks are done, there won’t be any money to battle this disease. Residents are still urged to come into city hall and ask for West Nile Virus assistance. A janitor will spray them with ‘Deep Woods Off’ for a $20 fee.”
Mayor Therrell Thomas said he was foregoing the ‘Deep Woods Off’ and said that residents were welcome to stop in at Foot’s Liquor, a business he owns and operates, and purchase some ‘Wild Turkey.’
“Rub a little [Wild Turkey] on your arms and legs and it’ll keep the mosquitos off,” the mayor said before leaving to use the restroom.
It was Ellis’ hazmat suit that drew the most attention from council, specifically, District One Councilman Adam Harding.
“I really like your hazmat suit,” Harding said to Ellis during the discussion of the budget, “I’d have to say that right now this is a doable budget but more importantly, I think Wendy is pretty doable herself. I love the way that suit fits.”
Ellis said she was concerned about reports that two police officers and a fire fighter were hospitalized with the virus, but added, “I really didn’t know them all that well anyway.” She asked residents to continue to bring in old trash bags so officers and fire fighters could make ‘homemade’ hazmat suits.
As far as the four other deaths, Ellis expressed some disappointment in residents who reported those deaths to local media.
“I had said if residents believed a family member had died of West Nile Virus, the family should contact the police department who would dispose of the bodies. Instead, people contacted the media. For the last time, if we let this get out, people will stop coming to Palestine. It’s important that residents help me keep this little secret from getting out.”
Ellis said that the four families who reported the deaths were hunted down and executed by water distribution and wastewater collection supervisor Doug Whitten. She said the punishment “fit the crime” because residents should work with the city in not letting the news of the virus spread to surrounding communities.
According to doctors, this strain of West Nile Virus that is spreading throughout the city was a mutation only found at the Wellscreek Wastewater Treatment Facility located in Palestine.
Following the approval of the 2015 budget, Ellis temporarily removed her hazmat suit to do, what she called a ‘victory dance,’ in the parking lot of city hall before leaving with Councilman Harding. The celebration was captured on video and posted online Monday night. As of press time, the video had been shared over 51,000 times.