Charlotte-Douglas can’t force Covid-19 positive passengers to leave airport

Charlotte airport officials can't force passengers with COVID to leave

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Text messages and other records obtained by WBTV show that patients evaluated for Covid-19 at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport refused to leave. Our investigation revealed that even if a passenger has Covid-19 the city’s Aviation Department cannot force that person to leave the airport.

On July 4th, text messages between airport leadership show there were at least two suspected cases of Covid-19 that Medic and the Aviation Department were working to address.

According to Medic records, two patients were “refusing transport.”

One text message obtained by WBTV says “I just spoke with Jack – we legally can’t prohibit them from entering the terminal” although the person was required to follow North Carolina’s mask mandate.

Jack is Jack Christine, Chief Operating Officer at the Aviation Department.

WBTV requested an interview with airport leadership to explain what they’re doing to keep travelers safe but they declined.

However, Christine and other members of the aviation team held a press conference on Wednesday where they were available for questions.

“If the Aviation Department is made aware of someone in the airport who has Covid-19, and they refuse to leave, can the airport remove them?” a WBTV reporter asked Christine.

“The airport does not have the authority to have someone leave the airport unless they’re causing a disturbance,” Christine said.

The United States Supreme Court has upheld Americans “right to travel” as a guaranteed liberty. Absent a policy ruling from the FAA or an executive order from the governor, the Aviation Department would be on shaky legal ground if it removed someone from the airport for having Covid-19.

WBTV also reached out to the FAA to see if the department had granted authority to municipal airports to remove persons suspected of having Covid-19 but no specific guidance on that matter has been given.

During the press conference Christine also said it would be unusual for the airport to be made aware of passengers who have Covid-19.

But just on July 4th, the day of the text messages, Medic responded to three separate calls for people who were sick or had Covid-19 symptoms. The aviation department log says that one of them was negative during a field screening, which is not an actual Covid-19 test.

The aviation log also says that a plane from Montego Bay, Jamaica had Covid positive patients on-board and those passengers were given quarantine instructions by Customs and Border Protection.

“How routinely are you being made aware of people who have symptoms though and are potentially sick and could have Covid?” a WBTV reporter asked Christine.

“Medic deals with all of that,” Christine said.

“They have a protocol that they go through to evaluate any type of customer who has some type of medical issue and they make the determination as to whether they could be positive or not and then deal with it with their own protocols.”

“Have you had situations in which people have been told they should leave the airport but stay and travel on anyways?” WBTV asked.

“Not to my knowledge, no,” Christine said.

But the text messages show that, on July 4th, one person was field screened as COVID-positive. It’s not clear, though, whether they went to the hospital or got on their next flight.

When WBTV asked that specific question via email and a spokesperson for Charlotte-Douglas International Airport responded.

“The Airport does not have access to Medic’s patient information or the airlines’ passenger information. We do not have these answers. Please contact Medic, the airlines and the CDC with your questions.”

WBTV contacted Medic, which would not reveal the diagnosis of individual patients because of health privacy concerns.

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