Md. health officers stop coronavirus-positive boy from boarding at BWI

A family from Maryland’s Eastern Shore had a close call when they nearly boarded a plane at BWI Marshall Airport unknowingly carrying the coronavirus.

Health officials were able to stop them before they potentially infected other passengers.

On the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, health officers in Wicomico County alerted a network of COVID-19 responders, including the Maryland State Police, that a boy who had recently tested positive for the coronavirus was slated to board a plane to Puerto Rico. They got the alert at 3 p.m. for a flight that was departing at 4:15 p.m., said state police liaison Sgt. Travis Nelson.

“In about 15 minutes, the health department had sent the state police a legal isolation or quarantine order, which can be used as a detainer,” Nelson said.

Despite the boy’s recent test, Nelson said, health officers in the county couldn’t reach his mother to alert her, and after learning they could be traveling, issued an isolation order.

Working with the Maryland Transportation Authority Police, officers rushed to the gate to find the family before they boarded.

“They were just trying to reach the mom and say, ‘Hey, don’t get on a plane. Your 9-year-old has coronavirus, and you’re not only going to expose the entire plane but you need to come back home,'” Nelson said.

The family was immediately put on the phone with the health department and returned home to the lower Eastern Shore without incident, Nelson said.

But officials said it speaks to the importance of responding to the calls of contact tracers and state health agencies following testing.

“I think that’s the key here, following getting a test, is to answer the phone. Whether it’s ‘MD Covid’ on the caller ID, or another official number, and then to comply with contact tracing. That’s the best way to make sure to help the health department reduce the spread,” Nelson said.

It’s unclear when the boy was tested or how he contracted the virus.

More Coronavirus News

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

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Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

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