A retired Manhattan surgeon spread the coronavirus on a flight to Los Angeles in mid-March — but no one bothered to warn the passengers or crew they were at risk of catching the illness, a report said Monday.
The 69-year-old man had just been released from a hospital in the virus-stricken Big Apple when he took off from JFK March 19 as he moved to an LA dementia-care facility, The Los Angeles Times reported.
The day after his American Airlines flight, the surgeon was rushed from the facility to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center with a 101.9-degree fever and a cough. He later tested positive for COVID-19.
None of the 49 other passengers or eight crew members on his flight were notified of his results, according to the Times. This despite local public health officials assuring they were investigating each case of the virus and contact tracing to curb the spread.
The airline only recently learned of the case from The Times, the paper reported.
The virus also spread to other people in the Silverado Beverly Place assisted living facility, where 32-year-old nurse Brittany Bruner-Ringo and a dozen others later died.
He was not placed in quarantine when he arrived to the home from LAX, three employees told the newspaper.
The nurse assigned to welcome him, Bruner-Ringo, later told her mother, sister and a colleague that the man had a fever and a cough when he arrived, the paper reported. The facility has denied that and said medical records prepared by the nurse showed he had no symptoms.
The Times said it was not naming the man because his mental competency is unclear.
It took 11 days for the LA county health department to learn of the man’s COVID-19 diagnosis, and by that point, “the contact information provided for the individual was incomplete and the investigator was not able to conduct an interview.”
According to the Times, contact tracers with the health department closed the case after 14 days, when they were unable to reach the surgeon for an interview.
LA health officials never alerted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the flight so that contact tracing could be initiated, the CDC told the Times.
“Any delay in contacting exposed individuals will increase the likelihood of disease spread,” a CDC spokesman said.