A couple in Hawaii face reckless endangerment charges after they boarded a flight with their 4-year-old son even though they had tested positive for Covid-19, police said.
The couple, Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson, knew they had tested positive when they boarded a United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Lihue, Coco Zickos, a spokeswoman for Kauai police, said Wednesday.
They had taken Covid-19 tests in Seattle before their flight to San Francisco, as part of Hawaii's Safe Travels program, Zickos said.
The tests returned positive, but the couple was already en route to San Francisco, where they had a layover, she said. The couple was notified of their test results before boarding the flight to Hawaii and instructed to isolate and not travel. It is not clear who told the couple about their positive status. Zickos initially said the couple was informed by San Francisco International Airport officials, but a spokesman for the airport said its quarantine station did not interact with the couple.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notified authorities in Lihue after Moribe and Peterson continued on their planned flight, Zickos said.
When Moribe and Peterson arrived at Lihue Airport, they were met by officials from the Department of Health and escorted by police to an isolation room for further processing and investigation.
Moribe, 41, and Peterson, 46, residents of Wailua, were arrested on second-degree reckless endangerment charges. A family member took their son home, and Child Protective Services was notified, Zickos said.
"They knowingly boarded a flight aware of their positive COVID-19 test results, placing the passengers of the flight in danger of death," Zickos said in a statement.
A spokesman for the Hawaii Covid-19 Joint Information Center said Wednesday that the state Health Department is alerted when someone tests positive and that the couple were aware of their diagnosis before they boarded the flight in San Francisco.
"Rather than quarantining and contacting their health provider, they went on the plane," the spokesman said.
There were 17,968 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in Hawaii as of Sunday, with 244 deaths, according to state health data.
The couple posted bail, which was set at $1,000. They could face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine if convicted. They did not immediately return requests for comment.
Passengers who test positive for coronavirus are not permitted to fly.
"Following CDC guidelines, you will not be able to travel on United for at least 10 days after the date you tested positive and only after you have two successive negative COVID-19 results that were administered at least 24 hours apart," the airline's website says.
In a statement Wednesday, a spokesperson for United said the health and safety of its employees and customers are the airline's "highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures in place as part of a multi-layered approach to create a safer travel environment."
"Prior to traveling, all United customers are required to complete a 'Ready to Fly' checklist acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days," the spokesperson said.
Moribe and Peterson are banned from any United flights and an investigation is underway, the spokesperson said.