Jan. 25, 2021

The CDC recently published updated guidance on transporting individuals who have COVID-19, or have been exposed to the virus.

The guidance states individuals with COVID-19, or exposed persons who meet the definition of a close contact, are prohibited from traveling on scheduled passenger airline flights. “Close contact” is defined as, “Someone who was within six feet of an infected person for a cumulative total of 15 minutes or more over a 24-hour period* starting from two days before illness onset (or, for asymptomatic patients, two days prior to test specimen collection) until the time the patient is isolated.”

Review the CDC’s updated guidance.

When transporting people who are known or suspected to have COVID-19 or close contacts of a person with COVID-19 to the U.S. from another country, the aircraft operator must notify the CDC in advance of arrival, and preferably no less than 24 hours before the flight’s departure.

Individuals with COVID-19 or exposed persons should use private or medical transport (air and ground), and should only be transported alone or as a cohort of other individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19. If a parent or caretaker is required for one infected individual, that individual should travel outside of a cohort.

Close contacts of COVID-19-positive individuals may be transported, but should be asymptomatic and receive a negative test, then should be separated by a minimum of 6 feet on the aircraft. If they test negative, they can be grouped with their existing cohort.

Symptomatic close contacts should be assumed to be infectious.

The publication also includes specific guidance for non-scheduled aircraft operators, including aircraft ventilation, availability and use of PPE and proper seating of passengers who are infected or were exposed.

“This CDC guidance is particularly important to air medical transport providers who will carry COVID-19-positive individuals and those who have had close contact with individuals with COVID-19, but the guidance also includes some practical advice for any aircraft operator or crewmember to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 exposure,” said Brian Koester, CAM, NBAA’s director of flight operations and regulations.