COVID-19 Positive Retired Surgeon Infecting Many on American Airlines Flight

By Marie

During this time of pandemic, effective risk communication plays a very crucial role in controlling the spread of the virus and in saving countless lives. For it to work, it needs utmost cooperation from both the government and its people. At one side, the government sectors need to collaborate among themselves first to plan their crisis response. In addition, the government also needs to provide the people accurate information for the masses to have a good grasp of the threats being posed by this pandemic. In turn, the people can show their support to the government by reporting suspected/confirmed COVID-19 cases and helping with the contact tracing.

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When the risk communication is done well, government sectors will have a coordinated and cohesive plan of action to manage the different emergency situations that may rise. In turn, the people will be well-informed on what to expect and prevent in this crisis. However, if done poorly, not only can it lead to a disorderly way of responding to COVID-19-related situations, it can also cost the lives of people.

Unfortunately, this poor risk communication between the people and the government sectors is what caused the coronavirus to spread from an American Airlines flight to an assisted living facility for dementia care. A 69-year-old retired surgeon flew from New York to Los Angeles to move to the Silverado Beverly Place facility for dementia care. However, despite arriving from New York, which is one of the places which was badly stricken by the COVID-19 virus, the facility who took him did not put the retired surgeon under quarantine. A day after his flight, the man was hospitalized and was soon diagnosed with COVID-19. Since he was not placed in quarantine, the virus spread throughout the living facility and it caused more than a dozen people to die.

Because the facility was denying that the man was exhibiting any COVID-19 symptoms upon his arrival, the LA County Health Department was not notified of the case ahead of time. To add, LA health officials also failed to notify the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the concerned flight. As a result, none of the airline passengers and crews who were on the said New York flight was given any notification. This lack of communication made the contact tracing of individuals who were exposed in the virus all the more difficult. This also greatly increases the likelihood of the disease spreading in different areas; thus, putting more lives at risk.

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In this scenario, both the facility and the government sectors involved had shortcomings in handling this case. They failed to collaborate and do their responsibilities in preventing the spread from happening. This only goes to show that to be able to win this battle against the invisible enemy, effective risk communication and cooperation are badly needed. Both the people and the government sectors needed to take accountability for us to be able to save more lives.