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An Allegiant A-320 airplane takes off. Two flights in late June, including one leaving Punta Gorda, carried coronavirus out of Southwest Florida with three passengers from upstate New York.

Three Allegiant passengers — including one from Punta Gorda — tested positive for coronavirus, an upstate New York county learned late Monday.

News spread quickly in the upstate New York county of 65,000 that was just celebrating a local decline to zero cases. New York health officials believe all three passengers got infected while in Florida. The Sunshine State has traded places with the Empire State in recent weeks, as the latest coronavirus hotspot.

"These three new positive cases should serve as a wake-up call to anybody who isn't taking this virus seriously," Warren County Administrator Ryan Moore said in a press statement.

"New York state and the Capital Region have improved, but the threat remains and all the progress we’ve made can be undermined. It’s no great mystery that Florida and many other states have been struggling with spikes in this virus. If you haven’t already gotten smart about your vacation decisions, then get smart. You’re putting yourself and your community at risk.”

The three had been vacationing before returning home from Punta Gorda and from St. Petersburg on June 25, and June 26 respectively. They all landed at the Albany airport, but they are residents of Warren County, New York, over an hour north, said Warren County Director of Public Affairs Don Lehman.

Allegiant was the only airline at that time not to mandate the wearing of masks.

As of Tuesday, Allegaint now requires masks of passengers at all phases of the flight.

The three passengers started feeling sick soon after arrival back home in New York, Lehman said the passengers told contact tracers there. The one from Punta Gorda was 58 and began a quarantine upon arrival, even though the state did not yet require it, Lehman said.

A day later, New York instituted the quarantine requirement from Florida, but the two people ages 25 and 28 traveling from St. Petersburg, chose not to quarantine, Lehman said. After their trip, as they were feeling sick, they traveled to a local grocery store and food takeout location, they told tracers.

They also told tracers they wore masks on those outings, which was verified by security camera footage, Lehman said.

Lehman did not know whether the three were wearing masks on their flights.

The three decided to get tested shortly after arrival, because they felt sick. A complex tracing protocol kicked in late in the afternoon on July 1, when results of those tests arrived at Warren County. 

Warren County would only be contacting people who are from Warren County, Lehman said. There were no other Warren County residents on the flights, according to information provided by Allegiant, he said.

The New York Department of Health and the U.S. Centers For Disease Control are notifying the health departments near the residences of the other passengers, he said.

As for contacts after the flight, they were minimal.

"It was determined that the couple’s contact with the public does not warrant notification for possible exposure to COVID-19 at the businesses they visited. Their transactions were reviewed and were determined to be of minimal risk for potential viral spread," Warren County's latest press release stated.

All three cases are considered mild.


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