Ebola in New York: Inside the Apartment Building Where Dr. Craig Spencer Lived

Spencer tested positive for the Ebola virus on Thursday evening after returning from Guinea Oct. 17

Photo: Facebook

When Ricardo Lawrence went down to get his mail on Thursday, he saw an odd sight.

Gathered outside his six-story apartment building in the dreary Manhattan afternoon was a group of news crews and reporters, with more arriving by the minute.

“I came upstairs and I turned on the TV and about five minutes later I saw the report,” he tells PEOPLE.

Dr. Craig Spencer, a resident of Lawrence’s building – in fact his very own neighbor across the hall – had been rushed to Bellevue Hospital earlier that day with Ebola-like symptoms.

Later that night, the news was confirmed: Spencer, 33, had tested positive for the deadly virus.

The doctor returned from Guinea on Oct. 17, where he had been treating victims of the disease as a physician with the group Doctors Without Borders.

Health officials said Thursday that he had not had direct contact with many people – as of Friday, just Spencer’s fiancée, Morgan Dixon, was quarantined, along with two others who have not been identified.

But for the residents of the Harlem apartment building where Spencer lived with Dixon, life has been completely upended.

“A lot of people are concerned,” says Lawrence. “All of our information is coming from watching the news. As far as the health officials’ interactions with us, that’s only consisted of the little cards that they slipped under the door.

“There are people whose imaginations are running wild,” he adds. “There are a lot of questions. A couple of residents have called the health department and the CDC to see if somebody will come and clarify things for people, and they’re not getting that.”

Lawrence says he feels the response from health officials has been slow, which is contributing to the worry felt by the building’s inhabitants.

“The reports that they’re saying about the apartment being sealed off? It’s not,” he says. “There’s not even a hazard tape across the door or anything.”

A cleaning crew finally showed up on Friday morning, but in the meantime Lawrence had already taken matters into his own hands.

“I’m a little bit of a germaphobe, so last night I went and wiped the elevator buttons down with some Clorox wipes and did what I could to minimize what little bit of exposure we may have,” he says.

He also mopped the hallway’s floors. “I’m not being overly paranoid, but I’m doing what I can to minimize any kind of contamination.”

But mostly, he’s worried about Spencer, 33, and his fiancée, with whom he was friendly.

“She’s very nice, very friendly, very pleasant,” he says of Dixon. “I’ve taken in some of her deliveries, she’s taken in some of mine. They’re both very nice, quiet people.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is neighbor Brian Beamon, who says he’s “not concerned at all.”

“From what I know it’s not airborne,” he says. “I’m not leaving. It’s safe here. I’m not even thinking about it.”

Texas nurse Nina Pham, 26, was released from the hospital on Friday after being cured of the deadly virus.

Her colleague Amber Vinson remains at Emory University Hospital, though she has been declared Ebola-free.

Brooklyn bowling alley The Gutter closed its doors on Thursday after it was revealed that Spencer had visited the location on Wednesday night, just before he became symptomatic. It will reopen on Friday, according to the business’s Facebook page.

“We voluntarily decided to close The Gutter yesterday evening as a precautionary measure while we gathered more information,” the bowling alley management said in a statement on Facebook.

“We are working with the NYC Health Department to have the bar cleaned and sanitized under their supervision and expect to be open sometime today after that is completed. Doctors advising the Health Department have told us that our staff and customers were at no risk.”

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