Officials Remove Sick Passenger from Southwest Airlines Flight Over Coronavirus Concerns

January 26, 2020 Updated: January 27, 2020
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A passenger who recently traveled to China and was exhibiting flu-like symptoms was escorted off a Southwest Airlines plane heading from the Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshal Airport amid the coronavirus scare that has left thousands sickened and dozens dead in China.

Medical officers removed the passenger off a Southwest flight from Las Vegas, Nevada, to Maryland “out of an abundance of caution,” the Maryland Department of Health said, according to NBC4. Video footage posted by the news outlet showed passengers on the plane wearing masks over their mouths as a health official told them: “Because of this heightened time, we are just using an abundance of caution.”

The sick passenger “was referred to a medical facility for evaluation to determine whether additional follow-up is necessary,” the agency said, adding that the person was released after a medical evaluation.

“The person did not meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention criteria for 2019 novel coronavirus testing…Per guidance from the CDC, no special action was indicated for this person or for any other passengers or crew on the flight,” the Maryland Health Department said in a statement obtained by the Baltimore Sun.

A spokesperson for Southwest Airlines confirmed the incident to Fox News: “Local medical personnel met Flight 2889 once it arrived at the Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport from Las Vegas on Saturday due to reports of an ill customer.”

It added that “out of an abundance of caution, and in light of the recent concerns of the coronavirus, our crew followed recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control for responding to concerns to ensure the customer, and those traveling with them, receive the assistance or support they may need.”

Wuhan virus
A medical staff member wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city is seen on an ambulance at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on Jan. 25, 2020. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

The Health Department said the sick passenger, who had been to Beijing, had also previously traveled to Mexico and Las Vegas. They were previously screened and cleared in those two North American locations, according to NBC4.

In an attempt to prevent its spread, the Chinese regime has announced lockdowns and quarantines in Wuhan, the epicenter of the virus outbreak, as well as other cities.

In the United States, there have been three confirmed cases in Southern California, Illinois, and Washington state.

Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, meanwhile, warned on Sunday that he expects 1,000 new cases of coronavirus in his city, reported Reuters. The city will construct more specialized hospitals to deal with coronavirus patients, he said.

The dire warnings prompted the U.S. Department of State to announce it will evacuate its personnel and some private citizens aboard a one-time-only charter flight.

“The Department of State is making arrangements to relocate its personnel stationed at the U.S. Consulate General in Wuhan to the United States,” the agency’s statement said. “We anticipate that there will be limited capacity to transport private U.S. citizens on a reimbursable basis on a single flight leaving Wuhan Tianhe International Airport on January 28, 2020, and proceeding directly to San Francisco.”