Passengers exposed to COVID-19 on flight from Punta Gorda to Albany

Reporter: Erika Jackson Writer: Derrick Shaw
Published: Updated:
Punta Gorda Airport (Credit: WINK News)

Health officials are trying to track down passengers on a flight from Punta Gorda to Albany, New York, after another passenger tested positive for COVID-19.

Officials are in the process of notifying people who may have been exposed to the virus in order to prevent them from spreading it even more.

Diane Scales of Cape Coral wasn’t on the New York-bound flight, but expressed similar concerns as her Allegiant flight sat at the gate with mechanical issues.

“There was no social distancing at all. We were touching each other elbow to elbow,” she said.

“It was absolutely full with 10 empty seats. They boarded us with no air conditioning, no moving air.”

She chose to get off and not reboard. The uneasy feeling lingers with her today after she learned an Allegiant passenger contracted COVID-19.

Pamella Seay with the Charlotte County Airport Authority said we all have to do our part.

“If you don’t feel well, don’t fly,” she said.

Warren County (NY) health department officials issued an alert on Thursday, saying three of their residents contracted the virus while vacationing in Florida. They then boarded their flights home – one on one flight and two on another – and tested positive for COVID-19 days later.

Those flights from Florida to Albany included Allegiant Airlines flight 1505, which flew from Punta Gorda on June 25 (one person), and Allegiant Airlines flight 754, which flew from St. Petersburg/Clearwater on June 26 (two people).

One of the three Warren County residents who tested positive arrived home on June 25, before the state travel advisory for those who had been to Florida and 15 other states took effect.

The three new Florida-related cases were considered mild as of Thursday and were the only new cases confirmed among Warren County residents since June 24. The person whose test result was reported June 24 was cleared as recovered as of Thursday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working with the state and local health departments in New York to contact exposed passengers and crew.

“With an airline, it’s very easy because you know exactly who was there. If you’re in the grocery store, it’s not quite as easy,” Seay said.

The infected passenger believes he or she contracted COVID-19 while in Florida and didn’t start showing symptoms until arriving home. That person immediately self-quarantined.

The news makes travelers like Scales think twice about their next flight.

“Unless I had to fly right now, I just would not,” she said.

It’s unclear if that traveler wore a mask on the flight. Allegiant’s mask mandate goes into effect Thursday.

Anyone who was on one of those flights is asked to contact their county Department of Health as soon as possible as they may have been exposed to the virus.

Warren County officials said Thursday they had a 30-day period of “next to nothing in terms of new cases,” but Wednesday, the three positive cases were reported.

“These three new positive cases should serve as a wake-up call to anybody who isn’t taking this virus seriously. New York State and the Capital Region have improved, but the threat remains and all the progress we’ve made can be undermined. It’s no great mystery that Florida and many other states have been struggling with spikes in this virus. If you haven’t already gotten smart about your vacation decisions, then get smart. You’re putting yourself and your community at risk,” said Ryan Moore, county administrator with Warren County.

CDC statement:

“Under current federal regulations, pilots must report all illnesses and deaths to CDC before arriving to a U.S. destination. According to CDC disease protocols, if a sick traveler is considered a risk to the public’s health, CDC works with local and state health departments and international public health agencies to contact exposed passengers and crew.

“Potentially exposed persons will be contacted using the information provided by travelers to the airline.  That is why it is important travelers give airlines current contact information when booking tickets to ensure they can be notified if they were exposed to a sick traveler on a flight.”

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