Passenger who arrived at Palm Beach International Airport tests positive for coronavirus

Remaining passengers on JetBlue flight from New York released
Posted at 12:06 AM, Mar 12, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 16:34:47-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A passenger infected with coronavirus is being isolated after arriving Wednesday night at Palm Beach International Airport Wednesday aboard a JetBlue flight, according to the Florida Department of Health.

JetBlue flight 253 landed at 8:53 p.m. from New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, but the airplane remained on the tarmac instead of proceeding to gate C12.

Passengers departed the aircraft around 10:45 p.m.

On Thursday, the Florida Department of Health released this statement about the incident:

"The Florida Department of Health was made aware that a passenger traveling through the Palm Beach International Airport tested positive for COVID-19. Upon being notified, the Department immediately began working with the CDC to conduct an extensive epidemiological investigation to determine which passengers may have had close contact with the individual. Any individual who is a close contact with this individual will be informed to self-monitor and will be contacted further by the Palm Beach County Health Department. The individual who tested positive is isolated at this time."

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JetBlue released this statement on Thursday:

"The health and safety of our customers and crewmembers is our top priority. We’re asking customers who do not feel well or are concerned they may have coronavirus to not fly until cleared to travel by a doctor or health professional. JetBlue is currently waiving change and cancellation fees to allow customers the opportunity to change or pause their travel plans should they need to. In last night’s case, our crewmembers did an incredible job coordinating with health authorities. After health officials allowed customers to disembark, we conducted a thorough sanitizing of the aircraft according to CDC guidance. We have also sanitized common areas in both airport terminals involved. We will continue to coordinate closely with health officials and provide them any additional information required."

"The person across the way from me was taken to the back of the plane," passenger Scott Rodman said. "He was wearing masks and gloves. His wife was sitting in the same row as me and mentioned to others that he wasn't feeling well. She said he had gotten a phone call with his test results right before we had taken off, implying that he had a positive test but not actually saying it."

Palm Beach County Fire Rescue Capt. Albert Borroto said passengers near the unidentified COVID-19 patient on the plane were told to self-monitor for any symptoms.

Remaining passengers were released and given directions by Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director in Palm Beach County, to call the health department with any concerns.

"An individual on this flight got a text that he tested positive for the coronavirus," Alonso told passengers at the airport. "He has not been coughing or sneezing or anything on the plane. At this point, you're free to walk around and move around because, most likely, you're not going to have anything because there was no activity. The way you get this virus is somebody has to cough or sneeze on you."

At least one passenger on the flight said the whole thing is unsettling.

"I don't feel good about it," Rodman said. "The guy was sitting, you know, 5 feet from me, and his wife was sitting 2 feet from me, so no, I'm not feeling great about it."

PBIA sterilized the limited-containment area where the passengers deplaned, which was a separate location from the main terminals of the airport.

On Thursday morning, hazardous materials crews wearing white and yellow protective suits could be seen going on and off the aircraft carrying bags.


VIDEO: HAZMAT crews work JetBlue plane at Palm Beach International Airport

Borroto said rescuers were initially called to a medical incident aboard the plane at 8:40 p.m.

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