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My Toughest Challenge: Clay Jenkins

The Dallas County judge discusses 2014's Ebola outbreak.

“At the time of the outbreak, I was told that … we would be taking a secondary role. But the next day, we realized we had a more serious, widespread problem. The head of the CDC and the state health commissioner asked me to take the lead. This was America’s first Ebola outbreak, and there was no playbook for dealing with that. We had a lot of misinformation and widespread fear. The rules of how we dealt with people—for instance, how doctors and nurses used protective equipment—changed multiple times a day. We literally drew up the plan on a whiteboard in the county building. It’s really important to stay calm, to treat everyone like you would want to be treated, and to be transparent with the public and the press. You want people to see their [leaders] and feel that they have a plan. It’s a leader’s job to exact the confidence in people.”

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