As a team boarded Dallas Ebola patient Amber Vinson onto an airplane bound for an Atlanta treatment center Wednesday, a man wearing slacks, a button-down shirt and sunglasses stood out on the tarmac.
While three people in hazmat suits helped the nurse out of an ambulance, off a stretcher and up the stairs to a specially equipped jet taking her to treatment at Emory University Hospital, a man in street clothes stood nearby holding a yellow envelope.
The sight led viewers to question why the mystery man was unprotected while everyone else, including Vinson, was covered from head to toe. Two of the workers who helped her from the stretcher even wore respirators
Those questions were answered Thursday morning, when officials confirmed the man was indeed following protocol and supposed to be there.
"His role is to oversee the process of transport including on the tarmac," Randy Davis, vice president at Phoenix Air, told NBC News. "Part of our protocol is to have 1 person NOT in a bio-Hazard suit. "
Davis said the man, who he did not name, is the team's medical safety coordinator. Standard protocol is for him to wear street clothes, Davis said, because the suits can block field of vision and hearing. Davis said the man has been trained on keeping safe distance from patients and is ready to "suit up" if needed.
Coverage on Wednesday showed the unidentified man standing very near another hazmat-suited worker and then taking what appeared to be a container from one of the suited workers. He placed it on the steps to the jet and walked out of view.
He then reappeared as one of the PPE-suited workers came off the plane with red hazmat bags. He took what appeared to be a not-yet-used red bag from the worker in protective gear, then handed it to the workers as they bagged up items from the ambulance ride.
Then he conversed with two workers wearing respirators while the red hazmat bags were loaded onto the plane. He then grabbed the container from the stairs and got on the plane which departed Love Field en route to Atlanta. He got on the plane and is not in the Dallas area.