A female Texas resident in her thirties died of COVID-19 on a flight going from Arizona to Texas, NBC Dallas Fort Worth reported Sunday. The woman passed away before the flight took off, while the plane was still sitting on the runway, or tarmac.
According to ABC affiliate WFAA, the woman passed away on July 25, but officials didn’t know she had died from COVID-19 until recently.
The COVID-19 victim, who was a resident of Garland, Texas, started having difficulty breathing and was given oxygen, but the treatment didn’t help.
A press release from Dallas County Health and Human Services says that the victim did have an underlying health condition, though no further specifics were given. Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins told WFAA that it’s unclear whether the victim actually knew she had COVID-19 at the time of her death. “We don’t know a whole lot,” Jenkins told the television station.
Also unclear is which airline the victim was flying on, and, therefore, what—if any—safety precautions had been put in place on her flight.
The young woman’s story is a tragic reminder of the dangers that airports, or any crowded transportation hubs, pose during the coronavirus pandemic. Though we don’t yet know how or from where the woman contracted the virus—though "contact took place in Arizona," Jenkins said—the woman could have passed COVID-19 to others on her flight or individuals she’d interacted with at the airport. Health previously reported that flying during the pandemic is risky, at best.
“There’s no getting around the crowds between walking through airports, TSA lines, and boarding lines,” Bruce Polsky, MD, chairman of medicine at NYU Winthrop Hospital, previously told Health, adding, “A vacant middle seat doesn’t provide six feet of social distancing. Unless you really have to go, why would you?”
"[This is a] reminder that there is no age restriction in COVID," Jenkins told WFAA.
The story may continue to develop: Since running the story, WFAA requested more information on the situation from the City of Garland, Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love Field airports, and Southwest and American Airlines, but has yet to hear back.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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