Three people who traveled on a recent regional Delta Air Lines flight have tested positive for COVID-19.
“We have been made aware of three customers who tested positive for COVID-19 and recently traveled on Endeavor Air from Atlanta to Albany,” according to a statement provided by Delta Air Lines spokesperson Kate Modolo. Endeavor Air is a regional airline and subsidiary of Delta.
“We are working with local officials and following the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s protocol in their outreach to customers and employees. Customer and crew health and safety are our top priority,” the statement said.
There were 44 passengers on the flight.
The passengers became symptomatic on July 7, a day after the July 6 flight, according to a Facebook post from the Rensselaer County government in upstate New York.
“Any passengers on the flight are advised to call their home county health department,” the post also said.
It was not immediately clear where or when these passengers became infected with the virus, which has sickened more than 3.3 million Americans, according to Johns Hopkins data. USA TODAY has reached out to the CDC for more information. Delta Air Lines requires face masks, now a given on major U.S. airlines.
Asked about the overall rate of travelers testing positive for COVID-19, Delta CEO Ed Bastian said Tuesday that “it’s really minimal.”
“There’s no question that in the general population, there’s a virus,” he said on the airline’s earnings conference call. “When we do find out, we go back and contact-trace with anyone that would have been in their immediate vicinity of a customer, but I can tell you those instances are really, really small and certainly no instances that we’ve been aware of where there’s been any transmission onboard our planes.”
The Delta incident is not the first recent case involving airline passengers arriving in Albany and then testing positive for COVID-19.
Three residents of Warren County, New York, who flew on two Allegiant Airlines flights from Florida to Albany in late June tested positive after returning home, the Warren County Health Services department disclosed July 1. Six additional passengers from Warren County did not test positive but were directed to quarantine, the department said on July 3.
The health department for Warren County, which is located 45 miles north of Albany, said it “worked around the clock’’ to contact more than 200 Allegiant passengers on the two flights, one from Punta Gorda and one from St. Petersburg/Clearwater.
One of the three passengers fell ill shortly after arriving home and quarantined, the department said. The two others, a couple, did not quarantine and went grocery shopping and visited a restaurant drive-thru before they tested positive.
The incidents involving travelers to New York come in the wake of the state’s new travel restrictions on travelers arriving or returning from a long list of states with a spike in COVID-19 cases.
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Doug Myers, spokesman for Albany International Airport, said passengers headed to Albany, for example, fill out a health form on their departing flight and are supposed to turn it in when they land to aid in contact tracing.
Delta Air Lines announced it would continue to block middle seats and cap seating through Sept. 30 to stem the spread of COVID-19.
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“Reducing the overall number of customers on every aircraft across the fleet is one of the most important steps we can take to ensure a safe experience for our customers and people,” Bill Lentsch, Delta’s chief customer experience officer, said in a statement.
Middle seats will be shown as unavailable during the booking process. On some smaller aircrafts, some aisle seats will be blocked. Delta will also cap seating between 50% and 75%, depending on the cabin.
American Airlines, which has been blocking half the middle seats in economy since April in the name of social distancing during the coronavirus pandemic, on Friday said it would end the practice on July 1.
Contributing: Julia Thompson, USA TODAY