NC couple asks why they were allowed to fly on commercial airline after testing positive for COVID-19


GREENSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – A North Carolina couple who tested positive for COVID-19 is out of isolation and back in Greensboro. The husband and wife now want to know why they were allowed to fly home on a commercial airline.

Marilyn White’s husband Laurin wanted to visit all 50 states. He had just one left on the list. In February, they boarded the Grand Princess and headed for Hawaii. The couple relaxed and made memories.

Then, a passenger who had previously been on the ship died of COVID-19. Other passengers started showing symptoms.

“We all had to go to our cabins and we — my husband and I — were in there for six days,” Marilyn said.

That’s when Laurin started feeling sick.

“He just doesn’t have energy, feeling like he’s got a fever,” she described. “He woke up and he vomited bright red blood.”

Eventually, everyone got off the ship. The couple was flown to Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Georgia. Marilyn said Laurin was taken to the hospital with double pneumonia. When Marilyn developed flu-like symptoms, she was taken to another hospital. Both were diagnosed with COVID-19.

They were put in isolation in a Georgia hotel after being released. They expected to stay for two weeks, but the CDC determined that wasn’t needed.

“Laurin tested positive on Thursday, got his test back positive,” Marilyn said. “On Monday, they brought a paper that the CDC had rescinded … his needing to be there and we could go back to North Carolina.”

“I was just confused. Why? Why?” she asked.

They wanted to go home but worried they could still be contagious. Marilyn said she was offered a flight early in the week, but out of caution, chose to wait until later in the week to leave Georgia. She said the cruise line booked a flight for Friday.

Although she had not had a fever through most of her illness, Marilyn said she felt feverish two days before the flight. She said neither she nor her husband was given a follow-up test to determine whether they still had the virus before getting on a plane.

Marilyn and her husband wore masks on the plane but said those had been used multiple times.

“Those things were seven days old,” she said.

The Whites are grateful they made it home to Greensboro. They’re grateful they are both recovering from the virus, but they also question whether the CDC should have released them from isolation. They still don’t feel completely well.

“The thing we’re dealing with now is just really extreme fatigue,” Marilyn said.

They’ve asked their doctor if they can be tested again for the virus. If not, they plan to stay alone in their home for another week or two.

CBS 17 reached out to the Department Of Health and Human Services and the CDC and to ask why the couple was allowed to fly commercially. The CDC has not responded. According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, once people are released from quarantine, their movements are not restricted anymore.

You can read the full statement from DHHS below:

We cannot comment on the specifics of individuals, but no one was released from HHS quarantine or isolation without meeting CDC criteria for release.

For clarification, immediately upon receiving a positive test result, a passenger is transferred from the military installation to a hospital or alternative care facility for isolation and follow up care. On March 23, CDC updated their policy and rescinded the federal quarantine order for people who tested negative or were asymptomatic. Under the new policy, passengers who had a positive test result who went more than 3 days without fever, and showed improvement in symptoms were eligible for release from their health care facility. All passengers whether located on base or in a health care facility had twice daily symptom checks. Before departing the base or health care facility, all passengers had their temperatures checked and were checked for symptoms of illness.

Again, we cannot comment on the specifics of individuals, but no passenger was released without meeting the above CDC criteria. All passengers were allowed to travel on commercial airlines if they met CDC criteria for release from federal quarantine.

HHS notifies state health departments if a passenger residing in their state had a positive test result. It is anticipated that the state will follow up with passengers residing in their home state.”

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