Officials probe possible COVID exposures from LAX-bound passenger who died

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 11: United Airlines Boeing 737-924 takes off from Los Angeles international Airport on November 11, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by AaronP/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images)

Federal health officials are working with United Airlines to determine if passengers aboard a Los Angeles-bound flight that was diverted when a man suffered what was initially deemed a heart attack may have been exposed to COVID-19.

United Airlines confirmed in a statement Friday that it had been contacted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about the man, who was aboard United flight 591 from Orlando, Florida, to Los Angeles International Airport on Monday. The flight was diverted and landed in New Orleans due to the sick passenger, who was taken off the plane and pronounced dead at a hospital.

"At the time of the diversion, we were informed he had suffered a cardiac arrest, so passengers were given the option to take a later flight or continue on with their travel plans,'' according to the airline. "Now that the CDC has contacted us directly, we are sharing requested information with the agency so they can work with local health officials to conduct outreach to any customer the CDC believes may be at risk for possible exposure or infection.''

There has been no confirmation that the man was actually infected with COVID-19 or that the virus caused his death.

RELATED: Stay up to date on all coronavirus-related information

Some passengers made posts on social media from the plane while the man was being treated. One passenger said she overheard the man's wife telling paramedics that he had tested positive for COVID-19.

United Airlines officials said passengers must certify before they are allowed to board planes that they do not have COVID-19 or any symptoms.

"The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures in place such as mask mandates and requiring customers to complete a `Ready-to-Fly' checklist
before the flight acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in
the last 14 days and do not have COVID-related symptoms,'' according to the

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After the man was taken off the plane in New Orleans, the flight continued on to LAX, under the assessment that the passenger had suffered a heart attack.

But the four flight attendants who were working the flight went into quarantine after the plane arrived in Los Angeles, according to their union, the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA.

"United flight attendants on Monday responded to a medical emergency inflight resulting in a diversion,'' according to union representative Taylor Garland. "Upon arrival at LAX, the crew of four flight attendants were quarantined for 14 days per written guidelines. Our union continues to provide support to the crew. We urge passengers to comply with airline COVID policies and stay home if you're sick.''