A woman died of Covid-19 on a Spirit Airlines flight from Phoenix to Dallas Fort-Worth on July 24. The story is only just now being reported. And the facts seemed so obviously not alarming that I didn’t cover it right away. But now that I’m seeing claims like, “so much for the ‘you can’t catch covid on a plane’ nonsense” that it’s clearly important to dive in.
The woman became non-responsive and the plane diverted to Albuquerque, where she was pronounced dead. She was 38 years old and had an ‘underlying medical condition’ that put her at high risk when contracting Covid-19 but the details of what the condition was hasn’t been released.
- The woman did not contract Covid-19 on the flight.
- There’s no indication she spread the virus on the flight either, though the CDC won’t confirm whether there was contact tracing done in this instance.
The woman tested positive for Covid-19 after she passed away. Initial reports were that she had died on the tarmac in Phoenix, but that turned out not to be the case. Attempts were made both by crew and by first responders in New Mexico to resuscitate her, which may have exposed them to the virus, but there’s no indication they contracted it. People tend to be most infectious shortly before and at the beginning of symptom onset.
This is a tragedy for the woman and for her family. But the incident doesn’t appear to tell us very much at all about the safety of travel during the pandemic.