United Airlines said on Friday it was working with health officials to contact passengers who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by a male passenger who died after a medical emergency on a recent flight.
The four flight attendants who responded to the emergency aboard the flight, United 591, were also quarantined for 14 days after the plane landed at its destination in Los Angeles, the union of flight attendants said. edge.
The flight, which took off from Orlando, Florida and was diverted to New Orleans, raised widespread social media alarms after reports said the man’s wife told emergency medical services he tested positive for the virus.
United Airlines said on Friday the man’s wife was overheard telling an emergency medical worker that her husband was showing symptoms of Covid-19, including loss of taste and smell.
But United officials said medical professionals did not confirm at the time that the man had tested positive for the virus and still did not know if he was infected. When the flight was diverted to New Orleans, the airline said, it was told the passenger had suffered cardiac arrest.
Nonetheless, United Airlines said it was contacted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We are sharing the requested information with the agency so that it can work with local health officials to carry out awareness actions with any client that the CDC considers to be at risk of exposure or infection,” said said the airline.
The CDC said on Friday it was “collecting information and proceeding according to our standard operating procedures to determine whether other public health measures were appropriate.”
“To protect the privacy of the individual, we do not provide this information to the public,” the agency said.
Taylor Garland, spokesperson for the union that represents flight attendants at 17 airlines, including United, said that after the plane landed in Los Angeles, the crew of four flight attendants were “put quarantined for 14 days in accordance with written directions ”.
“Our union continues to provide support to the crew,” said Garland. “We urge passengers to adhere to Covid airline policies and stay home if you are sick.”
United said that when the passenger checked in for the flight, they certified, as part of a ‘Ready to Fly’ checklist, that they had not tested positive for the coronavirus and had no no symptoms of Covid-19. But the passenger may not have been honest, the airline said.
The man’s family later confirmed he had “felt ill before the day of the trip,” United said. The man also had pre-existing conditions, including high blood pressure and upper respiratory problems, the airline said.
United Airlines officials said it was only after the plane continued on its way to Los Angeles that they learned that the man’s wife expressed concern that he was exhibiting symptoms of Covid-19.
“The decision to continue to Los Angeles was taken after medical professionals initially deemed the emergency to be heart distress,” United said in a statement. “A change of plane was not justified. Instead, passengers were given the option of disembarking and catching a later flight or continuing to Los Angeles. All the passengers chose to continue. “
United has said the health and safety of its employees and customers is its top priority, which is why it is imposing masks and requiring passengers to complete the checklist confirming they have not tested positive for the virus in the past 14 days and have no associated symptoms. with the virus.
“We implore passengers not to travel if they have been diagnosed with Covid-19 or have symptoms related to Covid,” United Airlines said. “When in doubt, the best option is to get tested.”
Derrick Bryson Taylor contributed reporting.