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JetBlue bans man who flew on plane knowing he had the coronavirus

Posted at 5:49 AM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 08:52:45-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — A man who flew from JFK Airport in New York to West Palm Beach despite knowing he was infected with the novel coronavirus has been banned from any future flights with JetBlue.

The man is currently isolated after arriving Wednesday night at Palm Beach International Airport aboard a JetBlue flight, according to the Florida Department of Health.

JetBlue flight 253 landed at 8:53 p.m., but the airplane remained on the tarmac instead of proceeding to gate C12.

Passengers departed the aircraft around 10:45 p.m. and given directions by Dr. Alina Alonso, the health director in Palm Beach County, to call the health department with any concerns.

According to passengers on the plane, the man was wearing a mask and gloves.

"His wife was sitting in the same row as me and mentioned to others that he wasn't feeling well," passenger Scott Rodman said. "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."

"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."

The Florida Department of Health said Thursday that passengers within close contact of the man have been told to self-monitor and that they will be contacted by the Palm Beach County Health Department soon.

The Palm Beach International Airport 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.

Read JetBlue's statement in full below.

"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.

This story was originally published by Victoria Lewis on WPTV in Palm Beach, Florida.