An emergency medical technician who tried to save the life of the United passenger who died with Covid-19 last week came down with Covid-like symptoms. Even though planes are safer than many other indoor environment, the virus can spread inflight – not to mention traveling to and through the airport, waiting at the gate and on the jet bridge all of which generally lack HEPA air filtration.
How does a person with an infectious disease decide to fly in the middle of a global pandemic? How does someone make a choice to potentially infect others, knowing that there’s a chance some of the people exposed along the way could die as a result. It’s clearly reckless – but is it criminally reckless?
Two law professors argue for criminal charges for recklessly exposing others to Covid-19 such as the nursing home employee who attended a wedding, picked up the virus, and went to work exposing residents who later died.
The United States needs to start treating the reckless exposure of others to such risk as what it is: a crime. Whether charged as a violation of public health regulations, reckless endangerment or even criminal assault, the bottom line is that at some point people need to be held accountable for their indifference to the health and safety of others they interact with. And with the evolving ability to establish a real evidentiary link between such reckless indifference and a resulting COVID-19 death, even the prospect of involuntary manslaughter prosecution is not out of the question.
Another legal scholar explicitly applies this to flying after a positive Covid-19 test like the United passenger did who died while enroute from Orlando to Los Angeles – and poses this question about the man’s wife, “his wife knew, and perhaps encouraged him to fly, knowing that he had symptoms. Could she be charged on some sort of accomplice liability theory?”
Of course arresting more people with Covid-19 means placing them in indoor congregant settings where the virus might spread even further.
Should knowingly flying with Covid-19 be considered a criminal act?