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Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen multiple governments around the world place restrictions on travel. Conversely, a few governments who’ve seen numbers drop have also relaxed restrictions. However, we’re still seeing many stringent requirements still in place. Just yesterday, we read about how major US airlines are mandating that passengers wear masks on their flights. Now, a new report by LA Times details how three flights could’ve triggered the spread of Covid-19 in the state of California.

Covid-19 Spread in California

The report cites details of three inbound flights into Los Angeles that could’ve acted as events that accelerated the spread.

AA Flight 341: New York to Los Angeles in Mid-March

The report mentions the case of a retired surgeon who was heading to California from New York in First Class. The flight was carrying 49 passengers and 8 crew members.

L.A. was still in an early stage of the COVID-19 pandemic when the surgeon’s flight touched down, with fewer than 250 confirmed cases. Local health officials regularly assured the public then that the county was investigating each case and engaging in aggressive contact tracing to control the spread of the virus.

Despite these pledges, no one in public health informed any of the passengers and crew who had flown cross country with the surgeon that they were at risk. The airline only recently learned of the case from The Times.

Asiana Airlines Flight 202: Seoul to Los Angeles on March 8

The second case details flight 202, which carried 154 passengers from Seoul to Los Angeles. The person on board who apparently had Covid-19 had returned after visiting the Philippines, before boarding the flight 202. When the woman underwent a temperature check at Seoul airport, she seemed alright as her temperature screening was successful.

After the nearly 11-hour flight, the woman went to a relative’s house in Walnut. The next morning, she stopped breathing. She died March 10, the first confirmed COVID-19 death in L.A. County.

A CDC spokesman said its records indicated that in the LAX cases, L.A. public health officials never alerted the agency about the flights so that contact tracing could be initiated.

The county health department said that officials informed a CDC office at LAX about the South Korean flight. In the case of the JFK flight, its contact tracers closed the case after they were unable to reach the surgeon for an interview.

Initial Case: The man from Wuhan on Jan 22

One of the very first cases reported was that of a man who was returning from Los Angeles to Wuhan, China, which is the epicenter of the Covid-19 outbreak.

A man from Wuhan, China, connecting through the airport with his family on the way home from a Mexican vacation told a Customs and Border Patrol agent he needed medical treatment and was later taken to a local hospital and diagnosed with the virus.

The Pundit’s Mantra

As expected, government agencies sparred at each other.

Stateside, the agencies responsible each seemed to blame the other. A CDC spokesman said, “This flight is not in our contact investigation database, and CDC did not receive inquiries about this flight.” The county health department maintained officials “notified CDC Quarantine Station at LAX as per protocol for potential follow-up.” The Times asked for documentation of the notification. The county did not provide any.

Political parties have already politicized the Covid-19 pandemic. The example cited above only illustrates that these political or intra-government arguments only help to shift the blame, but do very little to solve the problem. They’re aimed at passing the buck to the other side. In an election year, I won’t be surprised if this blame game only intensifies further.

What do you think about the report and it’s findings? Tell us in the comments section.


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