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Woman died of COVID-19 on flight between Las Vegas, Dallas

Updated October 22, 2020 - 10:50 am

A Texas woman on a flight out of McCarran International Airport in July died from COVID-19-related causes, officials said.

On Sunday, Dallas County officials added the Dallas native in her 30s to the county’s confirmed COVID-19 death count, even though she died months before on an interstate flight, according to Lauren Trimble, chief of staff for Dallas County Judge Clay Jenkins. The woman had underlying medical conditions, Trimble said.

The unidentified woman became unresponsive July 24 on Spirit Airlines Flight 208 after it took off from McCarran headed for the Dallas area, causing the plane to be diverted to Albuquerque International Sunport in New Mexico.

With no reports initially about the unresponsive woman having the coronavirus, airport staff in Albuquerque treated the situation as any other medical incident, said spokeswoman Stephanie Kitts.

“The proper authorities responded and it was determined that the individual was deceased on arrival,” Kitts said in an email.

Spirit flight attendants receive extensive training on responding to medical emergencies, according to Erik Hofmeyer, Spirit spokesman.

He said that includes “communicating with our designated on-call medical professionals on the ground, using onboard medical kits and personal protective equipment, and receiving assistance from credentialed medical personnel traveling on the flight.”

Lorie Dankers, Transportation Security Administration spokeswoman, said it is unlikely an agent at McCarran had prolonged contact with the woman because of the 6-foot social distancing guidelines and other health protocols.

“Based on the date of the event, TSA officers had been and were wearing PPE at the time, adding a layer of protection,” Dankers said.

Because the woman’s COVID-19 diagnosis came to light months after the incident, the agency won’t issue a recommendation urging any passenger who might have come into contact with the woman to follow Centers for Disease Control and Protection guidelines.

The TSA keeps a coronavirus page that is updated daily noting the number of TSA agents who have contracted the coronavirus and those who have died from it, Dankers said.

As of Thursday morning, 2,204 TSA employees across the nation have tested positive for the virus, with eight deaths. At McCarran, 41 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19, with the latest case discovered Oct. 12.

Hofmeyer said Spirit adheres to CDC guidelines and cooperates with requests for information.

“We offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of our guest who passed away,” he said.

Contact Mick Akers at makers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on Twitter.

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