Man With Coronavirus Flew Delta On February 22 – And Other Passengers Aren’t Being Told

A 56 year old man flew on Delta from Amsterdam to Atlanta on February 22. He had connected from Milan, Italy. A few days after the flight he showed symptoms of coronavirus. Other passengers on board aren’t being informed.

That’s because the CDC recommended that other passengers didn’t need to be tested. However the CDC itself says on its website that while spread of the virus is greatest when symptoms are showing and at their worst, that asymptomatic transmission has occurred. While it’s unclear how often this transmission happens an infected person without symptoms may be shedding the virus.

The patient had been attending a conference in Milan, and others at the conference are sick as well. Meanwhile the government isn’t even tracking inbound passengers from coronavirus hot spots other than China,

“At this present time we are not receiving lists of names of passengers from Italy and South Korea the way we still are receiving lists of names of passengers from China, and that’s just the way the system is set up,” she said. “What has been set up has been largely for the individuals returning from China.”

I would have believed that the CDC was one of the more competent and professional agencies in the federal government before this crisis but they haven’t afforded themselves well. CDC coronavirus test kits sent to hospitals were defective (broken component), and since those kits couldn’t be fixed quickly testing was rationed strictly for people who had been in China (or in direct contact wiht someone who had been to China).

Much internet ink has been spilled over not believing China’s data on coronavirus. That’s a charge that can easily be leveled at the United States choosing not to try to test passengers who sat with this infected man across the Pond.

(HT: Jeff M.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. I agree that Delta should inform those folks on this flight but at this point the cat is out of the bag. Each of those passengers got off that plane, got on other planes, shuttle buses, ubers, trains, etc. And passed it along already. Even if it wasn’t immediately spread it would be by the time they are warned. There is no vaccine or immunity so you can’t prevent yourself from getting it. All you can do is limit the spread. Sick people in general should not travel and should stay home but it doesn’t sound like this passenger was showing signs on the plane or was selfish enough to travel anyway.

  2. We are beyond the point of containing or even restricting the spread of this virus. The best you can do now is take preventative measures to minimalize your exposure.

  3. @DaninMCI but you’re missing the point. Sure tons are going to be infected already, but it’s still possible to alert folks on that flight to limit further exposure. This is especially important for high-risk groups. Example: if they alerted those on the flight, it could warn someone early enough to not visit an elderly/sick relative in the near future, thus potentially saving a life.

  4. Fun fact: More people have died in Washington from Coronavirus than in Beijing.

  5. @305
    Completely agree. Plus, it’s the right of every passenger on that flight to know that there has been potential exposure, even if the risk of an acquired infection is remote.
    CDC has not covered itself in glory over this disease; nor has WHO, with their contradictory, conflicting and confused messages about route/ease of transmission ( and then bemoaning the level of anxiety/fear in the community).

  6. @Gary, totally agree with you last statement: “Much internet ink has been spilled over not believing China’s data on coronavirus. That’s a charge that can easily be leveled at the United States choosing not to try to test passengers who sat with this infected man across the Pond.” It’s a shame how we have responded–or the lack of.

  7. So, you met with someone from Beijing in late Jan/early Feb. They have no symptoms and you have no symptoms. Are you supposed to quarantine yourself or restrict your activities because both of you might possibly be a carrier? If so, when do you quit? It is clearly safer not to leave the house for the rest of your life, but what is reasonable? No clear answers here.

  8. CDC showing itself to be a clown car. Shattered my movie fiction perception of them.

  9. Unless a passenger refuses to provide a telephone and/or an email address, and the reservation must show it was refused, the airline will have a contact for all on the flight. Other passengers should be contacted as soon as possible and as recently reported the airlines are saying they are not equipped to handle that scenario. I think they should try contacting all the passengers on that flight that have given a contact..

  10. At least that flight was made public. I live in NYC and there is a woman in her 30s who recently visited Iran and tested positive for the coronavirus. For some reason they haven’t stated which flight(s) she took to come to NYC from Iran.

  11. @305 I agree. The passengers should be alerted. I just don’t think the bigger CDC issues that Gary points out matter much at this point. We are beyond containment. The USA should be in the 1918 St Louis model not the 1917-18 Philadelphia model at this point.

  12. The CDC used to know what it was doing and the rank and file employees still do. The problem is bone spurs fired the entire upper level management and installed his cronies so the decision makers are clueless yes people.

  13. Gary,

    Faulty test kits (b/c they haven’t been tested accurately) CAN and SHOULD be attributed to upper management as well as not allowing local munic. which are fully capable of making the kits per CDC regulations to use any but the CDC ones, nor to ramp up the numbers of kits available and to have a plan BEFORE the first case(s) in the US since it was clear this was going to happen!

  14. Coronavirus is in the U.S community now. Fact of life for the next several months at least.

    Wonder how many people on the delta flight in question are properly washing their hands?

  15. Its ok…. now we know the world is ending soon, if not faster next month after the asteroid thats comming this way, either hits or misses, who knows, cross ur fingers it passes. So we dont die sooner.

  16. All these complaints and concerns about the CDC’s ineptitude stems from 2 Things: leadership, and funding.

    As a healthcare provider, I and countless others have stood by the sidelines and watched/complained.

    Our system favors corporations, and minimizes individual protections.

    Donald Trump’s government has effectively taken away any “teeth” most regulators such as the FDA, CDC, CFPB has (very little I might add) such that they could just issue these tiny slaps on the wrist. And now, we have this epidemic. Go to the polling places and vote people

  17. @Christian, I don’t believe that is accurate. The administration have attempted to cut the CDC budget every year, but congress has blocked them doing so, I believe.

  18. I flew from Amsterdam to Atlanta on the 22nd. There is more than 1 flight per day so I am not sure if it was the same flight. We feel fine but have not been 2 weeks yet so my teenage daughter who was also in the flight is panicking. So the incomplete information is almost worse than knowing.

  19. The CDC did not require the other passengers to be notified because the science demonstrates that, despite what some have said, asymptomatic “victims” do not spread the disease. WHO has just done a comprehensive study of this issue establishing this fact. Are they 100% sure of this? No, they are not, but that are pretty sure. I’d also note that there is not a single documented instance of anyone catching coronavirus on an airplane. There are also good scientific reasons for this (mostly related to fresh air flow). At some point in a crisis, facts have to win out over fear, and this seems to be one such incident. I would also note that since everyone on that plane was flying from Europe in the height of the Italy Breakout, it is reasonable to assume that any passenger who developed virus symptoms would likely seek medical attention. I’m certain that if looked like this patient DID in fact spread the virus, notifications would be made.

  20. Given Gary’s day job I assume he would like to further defund science and medical research in the US. Just let big pharma decide.

  21. @chopsticks – that’s not what the CDC says on its own website and not what the Harvard virologist I linked to says. There are many studies of covid-19, they are very much works in progress and very little is ‘established fact’ at this point, research is regularly being corrected and revised. we do not know at all that, for instance, spread on the diamond princess didn’t happen in part through exposure to asymptomatic infected passengers.

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