A couple have been arrested and charged with reckless endangerment after boarding a flight to Hawaii from San Francisco last Sunday when they knew they had tested positive for the coronavirus, police said .
The couple, Wesley Moribe, 41, and Courtney Peterson, 46, of Wailua, Hawaii, were tested for the coronavirus in Seattle as part of Safe Travels Hawaii, a program that aims to limit the spread of the virus through testing and plots.
During a layover in San Francisco, they were told to self-isolate and not to return home as their results came back positive, police said.
The couple, however, ignored the instructions and boarded a return United Airlines flight, “putting the passengers on the flight at risk of death,” Kauai police said. The flight from San Francisco to Hawaii is typically over five hours.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention informed local authorities in Hawaii that the couple was on board the flight and they were arrested after the plane landed at Lihue Airport in Kauai, police said.
Officers who treated the couple were equipped with personal protective equipment, including gloves, gowns, masks and face shields, police said. They noted that the couple’s booking photos were taken outdoors to reduce the risk of transmission.
The couple’s 4-year-old, who was traveling with them on their way home from an international trip, has been handed over to a family member and child protection services have been notified, police said .
Mr. Moribe and Ms. Peterson posted bail, which was set at $ 1,000 each, police said. They are due in court on Jan.6, according to Justin Kollar, the Kauai County District Attorney. If found guilty, they face up to a year in jail or a $ 2,000 fine, he said.
It was not immediately clear whether the couple had a lawyer, and there was no response Thursday to the phone numbers listed under their names.
Mr Kollar said the charges should send a simple message to the public.
“Now is not a good time to come to Kauai, period,” he said. “We do not have the resources of our health system to be able to absorb a generalized epidemic of Covid-19. And certainly don’t get on a plane and go anywhere if you’ve tested positive for the coronavirus. It’s pretty basic. ”
United Airlines said it banned the couple from flying while investigating.
“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our top priority, which is why we have implemented various policies and procedures as part of a layered approach to create a safer travel environment, in particular by requiring that everyone on board wear a mask ”. United said in a statement. “Before traveling, all United customers should complete a ‘Ready to Fly’ checklist acknowledging that they have not been diagnosed with Covid-19 in the past 14 days.”
Todd G. Raybuck, the chief of the Kauai Police Department, said his officers, as well as county and state authorities, “remain diligent in protecting the health and safety of our island.”