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Death on United Flight Sparks COVID Scare

'I had to look away for a while,' passenger says
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 19, 2020 2:00 PM CST
Updated Dec 19, 2020 2:30 PM CST

(Newser) – United Airlines is trying to undo the damage after a man suffered a COVID-like medical emergency on a flight this week and died, NBC News reports. Now the airline is working with health officials to track down passengers who may have been exposed, and explain how the man—who boarded while breathing heavily with his head down, per one account—got on at all. "It was just really intense," passenger Shayla Allen tells the Washington Post about attempts to revive the man Monday on the Orlando-to-Los-Angeles flight. "I had to look away for a while and try to zone out because it was terrifying." The airline says that after diverting to New Orleans, where paramedics took him to a local hospital, the flight continued to LA with all its passengers.

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The decision to keep flying was based on an initial medical ruling of "cardiac distress," United says in a statement. "A change in aircraft was not warranted." But that clashes with some passenger accounts: Allen, for example, says she heard the man's wife tell a nurse on the flight that her husband had COVID-like symptoms, and a Twitter user recalls the wife saying her husband had "shortness of breath and lack of taste and smell." United now says the man's family has confirmed he was "feeling sick" before traveling and had pre-existing conditions, like high blood pressure, per the New York Times. So how did he get on board? By attesting on a "Ready-to Fly" checklist that he had no COVID-19 symptoms. He "wrongly acknowledged this requirement," the airline says. (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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