Wesley Moribe, age forty-one, and Courtney Paterson, forty-six, of Wailua, Hawaii, now face charges of “reckless endangering” after they put fellow passengers “in danger of death,” according to a statement from the Kauai Police Department.
Moribe and Paterson, who were traveling with a four-year-old child, were scheduled to fly from San Francisco to Lihue on Sunday. However, once they arrived at San Francisco International Airport, the airport’s quarantine station instructed them to not board their United Airlines flight and quarantine themselves, according to the police report.
Coco Zickos, a spokeswoman for Kauai police, said a family member took their son home after the arrest and Child Protective Services was notified.
The couple eventually posted bail, which was set at $1,000 each. If convicted, they could face up to a year in jail and a $2,000 fine.
A spokesman for the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center said that the state Health Department is alerted when a resident receives a positive test and that the couple were indeed aware of their diagnosis before they decided to board the flight.
“Rather than quarantining and contacting their health provider, they went on the plane,” the spokesman said.
According to United Airlines’ website, passengers who test positive for coronavirus are not permitted to fly.
“Following CDC guidelines, you will not be able to travel on United for at least ten days after the date you tested positive and only after you have two successive negative COVID-19 results that were administered at least twenty-four hours apart,” the site states.
A spokesperson for United Airlines asserted that the health and safety of its employees and customers are the airline’s “highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures in place as part of a multi-layered approach to create a safer travel environment.”
“Prior to traveling, all United customers are required to complete a ‘Ready to Fly’ checklist acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last fourteen days,” the spokesperson added.
Moribe and Paterson have been banned from all United flights and an investigation is currently underway.
Last week, Hawaii Governor David Ige approved Kauai’s request for a temporary moratorium from the state’s pre-travel testing program, which means all visitors to the island will have to quarantine for fourteen days.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek, and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.