LOS ANGELES – Los Angeles County health officials are notifying passengers aboard a Los Angeles-bound flight that was diverted when a man suffered what was initially deemed a heart attack that they might have been exposed to COVID-19.
United Flight 591 was en route to LAX from Orlando, Florida on Dec. 14. It was diverted and landed in New Orleans due to the sick passenger, who was taken off the plane and pronounced dead at a hospital. United Airlines confirmed on Dec. 18 that it had been contacted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the man.
“At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,” according to the airline. “Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.”
The man who died was identified by the Los Angeles Times as 69-year- old Isaias Hernandez of Los Angeles. Another passenger on the flight performed CPR on Hernandez in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life. On Saturday, TMZ reported that the man who performed the CPR, Tony Aldapa, was contacted by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health on Thursday and told that Hernandez had COVID-19.
County health officials would not confirm that Saturday when contacted by City News Service, but did say that passengers on the flight were being contacted.
“Due to privacy issues, we can not comment on any individual, the department said. “We are working with the CDC on this case in an effort to notify passengers as appropriate. Public Health continues to urge people to help stop the surge by avoiding travel, staying home as much as possible, avoiding gatherings, wearing a face mask when outside and maintaining 6 feet of social distance, and washing hands.”
United Airlines officials said passengers must certify before they are allowed to board planes that they do not have COVID-19 or any symptoms.
“The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures in place such as mask mandates and requiring customers to complete a `Ready-to-Fly’ checklist before the flight acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days and do not have COVID-related symptoms,” according to the airline.
After the man was taken off the plane in New Orleans, the flight continued on to LAX, under the assessment that the passenger had suffered a heart attack. But the four flight attendants who were working the flight went into quarantine after the plane arrived in Los Angeles, according to their union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.
“United flight attendants on Monday responded to a medical emergency inflight resulting in a diversion,” according to union representative Taylor Garland. “Upon arrival at LAX, the crew of four flight attendants were quarantined for 14 days per written guidelines. Our union continues to provide support to the crew. We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you’re sick.”
The flight carried 164 people, according to the Times.