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CDC releases interim guidance for flying people with COVID-19CDC releases interim guidance for flying people with COVID-19

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges that there are instances when someone who has COVID-19 must be transported by air, such as when medical care is not available in the person’s area. In those cases, the CDC has outlined procedures for safely flying the passenger.

The guidance pertains to general aviation flights and commercial flights outside of scheduled airline passenger flights (anyone who has COVID-19 or who has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for the virus is prohibited from airline passenger flights).

“The decision to arrange for transportation by air of a person with COVID-19 or known exposure should be carefully considered and thoroughly planned in discussion with public health authorities at origin and destination, relevant federal authorities, and when inpatient health care is needed at destination, personnel at the receiving medical facility,” the CDC said, adding that those on board the aircraft should be “trained in infection control procedures and the correct use of personal protective equipment.” In addition, aircraft operators should consider and communicate any intermediate stops or possible diversions.

The aircraft “should be of sufficient size to separate passengers and cabin crew into different parts of the aircraft and have ventilation characteristics that reduce the exposure of occupants to airborne infectious particles,” the CDC explained. Even though the CDC doesn’t expressly forbid the use of small general aviation aircraft, it would be difficult to comply with the agency’s guidance.

People who have tested positive for the coronavirus should only be transported with others who have also tested positive, the CDC said, and symptomatic individuals should be evaluated by a health care provider before flying to make sure they are “medically stable” and that the correct level of medical care will be provided on the flight. The agency also provides “infection control precautions” for all involved in the flight.

Notably, aircraft operators transporting individuals with COVID-19 or COVID-19 exposure must know and comply with all applicable legal requirements, which have been rapidly changing.

Because the guidance applies to flights within the United States, flights from the United States to foreign countries, and flights from foreign countries to the United States, aircraft operators are required to coordinate with the State Department, Customs and Border Protection, the FAA, and the CDC in addition to “foreign, state, territorial, tribal, or local governments” to ensure compliance with all regulations pertaining to coronavirus-related travel.

For additional details, including reporting requirements for international flights, see the CDC’s detailed interim guidance page.  

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Cobb has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
Topics: Travel, International Travel, US Travel

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