Virginia woman tests positive for COVID-19 after flight with family wearing no masks

National Coronavirus Coverage

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (WAVY) — Jody Heiner just found out Friday afternoon that she tested positive for COVID-19, but it didn’t come as a complete shock.

Heiner and her two sons were recently on a plane for an hour and half, and a family of four two rows up were not wearing a mask. Heiner is wondering whether safety protocols were thrown out the window.

At this point, there’s no way to know whether she caught the coronavirus on the plane. They were returning home Sunday from Disney World, celebrating her son Hunter’s 13th birthday.

“We had an awesome time,” Heiner said.

But “awesome” turned to worrisome when they boarded American Airlines flight 1695 from Orlando to Charlotte.

“We were all wearing masks except for the first row,” she said.

She says the family of four in row 1 were wearing masks when they boarded, but when “they were done eating they did not put their masks back on. They just left it off the entire flight.”

Heiner says she tried repeatedly to alert the flight attendant.

“I put my hand up numerous times motioning the blonde attendant towards me, and she just ignored me and stayed in her seat.”

And the flight attendant could hardly plead ignorance. Heiner sent us a picture showing the flight attendant seated just a few feet away from the maskless travelers.

10 On Your Side reached a representative from American Friday afternoon and she gave us this statement:

“The safety and well-being of our customers and team members is our highest priority. American, like other U.S. airlines, requires customers to wear a face covering while on board, and this requirement is enforced at the gate while boarding. We strengthened our face covering policy on June 15 to allow us to restrict future travel for anyone who fails to properly wear a face covering in-flight, and are no longer allowing exceptions for anyone the age of two or older effective July 29. The policy does not apply when customers are eating or drinking.

“Regarding this specific incident we are following up internally to ensure our policies related to masks and the safety of customers are closely followed.”

“I think they should have worn masks,” said Heiner’s son Tucker, 15. “I was scared for my mom, my brother, even myself.”

“My concern was my kids and safety,” she said, adding that she is diabetic and susceptible to health issues.

The Federal Aviation Administration has left it up to the airlines to set their own mask policies, and American says passengers must wear masks in flight unless they are eating, with no other exceptions noted.

“We are all trying to stay safe and not get sick,” Heiner said. “And I think the [mask policy] should not just apply to certain people and then other people get away with it.”


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