The passenger flew from New York to Florida after learning he tested positive for COVID-19

By Benjamin VanHoose
March 13, 2020 11:48 AM
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The passenger who boarded a JetBlue flight after learning that he tested positive for coronavirus is now banned by the airline.

In a statement to PEOPLE, a spokesperson for JetBlue said the unnamed traveler — who made the journey from New York City to West Palm Beach, Florida, on Thursday night while infected with COVID-19 — will no longer be allowed on their flights due to the “unsettling situation.”

“Last night’s event put our crewmembers, customers, and federal and local officials in an unsettling situation that could have easily been avoided, and as such, this customer will not be permitted to fly on JetBlue in the future,” read the statement.

The airline strongly advised passengers not to fly if they are feeling under the weather, or if they are waiting to get coronavirus test results.

“Consistent with CDC guidance, we ask all customers who are not feeling well, who believe they may have coronavirus, or who are awaiting test results to avoid travel until they are cleared by a medical professional,” JetBlue added.

On the JetBlue flight 253 from JFK Airport to Palm Beach International Airport, the man caused the plane to be kept on the tarmac for nearly two hours as health officials spoke with the crews and 114 passengers, reported ABC News.

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Passengers were instructed to monitor themselves for coronavirus symptoms but were allowed to leave the airport without meeting with a doctor. The flyers were updated by Palm Beach County’s health director, Dr. Alina Alonso, at the airport and told to contact the health department with any concerns.

“An individual on this flight got a text that he tested positive for the coronavirus,” Alonso told the flight, according to WPTV. “He has not been coughing or sneezing or anything on the plane. At this point, you’re free to walk around and move around because, most likely, you’re not going to have anything because there was no activity. The way you get this virus is somebody has to cough or sneeze on you.”

Palm Beach International Airport said that it would be sterilizing the area where the passengers were taken off the plane, which was outside the main terminal, and the airport operated normally otherwise, according to The New York Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.