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United Airlines warns passengers of exposure after possible Covid-related death on flight

It's apparent that the deceased passenger "wrongly acknowledged" that he had not tested positive or had Covid-19 symptoms before boarding, the airline said.
Image: United Airlines
United Airlines aircraft are on the tarmac at Los Angeles International Airport on Oct. 1, 2020.Frederic J. Brown / AFP - Getty Images file

United Airlines is working with health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help them contact passengers who might have been exposed to Covid-19 after a man suffered "a medical emergency" during a flight this week and died, the airline said in a statement.

The incident took place during an Orlando-to-Los-Angeles flight on Monday. The flight diverted to New Orleans when a man became ill on the plane. Paramedics transported the male passenger to a local hospital where he was pronounced dead, according to United Airlines.

"Everything felt so intense and not real," Shay Allen, a passenger on the flight, told NBC Los Angeles. Allen said she saw the man board the plane with his head down and breathing heavily. Less than 20 minutes into the flight, a nurse and an emergency medical technician began performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation on him, according to Allen. She and other passengers indicated they overheard the man's wife say he had been experiencing Covid-like symptoms.

“At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,” the airline said. "Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection."

The male passenger had filled out a required checklist before boarding the flight, saying he had not tested positive for Covid and did not have symptoms. But it's apparent that he "wrongly acknowledged this requirement,” the airline said.

The CDC said in a statement that they are in the "process of collecting information and proceeding according to our standard operating procedures to determine if further public health action is appropriate." The agency is not providing any information about the deceased passenger "to protect the privacy of the individual."

Allen said she has been quarantining at home in California as required by the state. By Friday, she had not been contacted by health officials, NBC Los Angeles reported.

Four flight attendants who worked on the flight have also gone into quarantine for 14 days after the plane landed in Los Angeles, Taylor Garland, spokeswoman for Association of Flight Attendants, told NBC Los Angeles.

“Our union continues to provide support to the crew,” Garland said. “We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you’re sick.”