Coronavirus: Couple who tested positive released from quarantine, allowed to fly commercial

Coronavirus: Couple who tested positive released from quarantine, allowed to fly commercial
The Grand Princess is at anchor in the middle of the San Francisco Bay just off Candlestick Point, on March 18, 2020. (Neal Waters/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
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WSB-TV investigative reporter Nicole Carr was in Cobb County, Georgia, where the couple stayed at hotel that is doubling as a federal quarantine center for about a week.

It's the first account WSB-TV has heard of anyone staying at the facility, which is concealed with black fencing and manned by guards.

Lauri Lyn Hodges called WSB-TV after her parents, Laurin and Marilyn White, were released Friday morning.

The Whites were passengers on the Grand Princess cruise ship. Earlier this month, they were dropped off at Dobbins Air Reserve Base before heading to separate metro Atlanta hospitals. They were later moved to the Radisson quarantine hotel in Marietta.

Hodges said her 75- and 85-year-old parents just received positive COVID-19 tests a week prior to the cruise line booking their trip home to North Carolina on Friday.

Hodges said the original plan was to have them fly out earlier in the week, but she encouraged them to request a charter flight out of “moral responsibility." Princess Cruise Lines made arrangements for a Delta commercial flight out of the Atlanta airport Friday. When a bus dropped the couple off at the airport that morning, that flight was canceled, and they were able to rebook an American Airlines flight to the airport in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Carr talked to Hodges on Friday.

“I’m fuming because I don’t understand why they’re allowed to go on a commercial flight,” Hodges said. “I mean, they treated it initially like they were a biohazard threat to the community and you’d never know that a week later, they’re like, ‘You just hop on whatever commercial airline we can get you worked up with and expose the public.’”

Hodges said her mother had a fever two days before the flight.

Carr reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services about the White’s case. The agency cited health and safety as their top priority for the public and cruise ship passengers. A spokesperson wouldn’t talk about the Whites specifically because of HIPAA laws, but said anyone released from federal quarantine meets Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines.

Those guidelines are as follows:

  • People with positive coronavirus tests and no symptoms can stop home isolation seven days after the test results come back, and they can’t be sick.
  • People with coronavirus and symptoms can stop isolation after their fever is gone, they have improved respiratory symptoms, like cough or shortness of breath, and they’ve had two negative swab specimens collected more than a day apart.

Hodges said her parents were initially told they'd have to have those negative tests before an estimated April release from the hotel.

“So in one week, we go from saying you have to test negative two times, to, ‘Oh, we’ve worked out with the officials of North Carolina,’” Hodges said.

HHS denied telling the couple this.

When asked whether the airline should have been notified of flight crew or passenger exposure, the agency said it could not comment on specific cases, but no one from HHS quarantine or isolation is released without meeting CDC criteria.

HHS said they notify states of incoming positive cases, it's "anticipated the state will follow-up with them in their home."

The cruise line apologized in a statement for the Whites initial canceled flight that left them searching for help in an empty airport Friday.

They said they make flight arrangements with directives from the federal government.

“We are sorry to hear of Mr. and Mrs. White’s frustrations,” the statement read before saying they’d confirmed the Whites made it home safely.

“With regards to quarantine processes, Princess has followed the directives by the CDC and HHS,” the statement continued. “Any questions about those processes, procedures and decisions should be directed to HHS.”

Hodges said she ordered a North Carolina car service to take her parents home to Greensboro from the Charlotte airport. She said she was unable to pick them up because both she and her child have health issues, and she was not comfortable being in the car with her parents before they receive negative tests.