Cruise line enforced COVID safety rules. COVID-related death on a flight

By David Tykol
This item appears on page 2 of the February 2021 issue.
The port of Corricella on the island of Procida, a 40-minute hydrofoil ride from Naples, Italy.

Dear Globetrotter:

Welcome to the 539th issue of your monthly worldwide travel magazine. Due to the shutdown of the travel industry because of the pandemic, last month’s issue had to be published online only, but, with a few more tour operators advertising this month — a hopeful sign — this issue is being printed and mailed as usual (and posted on our website,, of course).

To reiterate a couple of my announcements that some of you may have missed in the January issue, we are not running our annual “Where Were You Last Year?” poll among our subscribers this year, since, for the most part, nobody went anywhere in 2020. Trying to compare subtle differences from previous years’ statistics and determine travel trends wouldn’t prove very useful.

Also, this is the second month in which we’re running our temporary “Travelers’ Intercom USA” section. If you can think of a unique cultural site in the US or a noncommercial attraction you’ve visited, or if you have a helpful tip for independent domestic travel, send in a short write-up. Keep it to a paragraph or a couple hundred words. We’re limiting domestic coverage to one page per issue.

And continue to send in reports, advice or cogitations on your travels outside of the US, even on a trip a few years back. Email or write to ITN, 2116 28th St., Sacramento, CA 95818. Include your mailing address.

Now to the news…

For anyone wondering if travel providers would ignore their own health and safety rules regarding COVID-19, back on Aug. 31, the European line MSC Cruises (877/665-4655, made a bold move to prove they take the pandemic seriously.

In the midst of its first post-lockdown cruise, an Italy voyage, the staff of the MSC Grandiosa refused to allow a family of four to reboard the ship in Naples after they had broken the company’s health protocols by leaving a guided shore excursion. The family was given no recourse.

The ship was carrying about 2,500 passengers, just under half its capacity though still more than the number on any other ship that had sailed post-lockdown until then. And every passenger had gone through a rigorous health screening before boarding, including taking a rapid antigen test, which could reveal in minutes whether someone had had COVID-19 in the past but could also indicate an infection. Anyone testing positive would be sent for a more reliable PCR test (nasal swab) that used DNA to look for an active infection.

By leaving the bubble of safety created by MSC Cruises for its shore excursion, the family had become a danger to everyone on board, so they were not allowed to reboard the ship and complete the cruise.

In the end, of course, safety depends on our own efforts.

In late December, a passenger boarded a United Airlines flight from Orlando, Florida, to Los Angeles, California, with more than 200 passengers while exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19. Specifically, he was experiencing shortness of breath as well as the loss of his senses of taste and smell.

While on the flight, the man’s heart suddenly stopped beating. Three passengers, at least one a trained paramedic, performed CPR on the man for about an hour but were unable to revive him. (The CPR consisted of chest compressions and forcing air into his lungs with a mask and a compressible bag. No “mouth to mouth” was performed.) The cause of death was listed as “Acute respiratory failure; COVID-19.”

The plane made an emergency landing in Louisiana, after which the deceased passenger’s wife revealed that, when filling out his self-evaluation form prior to boarding the flight, her husband had lied about not having symptoms. He had planned on getting a COVID test in Los Angeles.

In the week after the flight, the paramedic who performed the CPR reported having COVID symptoms, such as cough, headache and muscle soreness. He subsequently had three PCR tests, testing negative each time, thankfully. The rest of the passengers were being monitored by the CDC, which was not planning to reveal if any had caught the virus.

It goes without saying that the infected passenger was irresponsible in not self-reporting his symptoms. It’s bad enough that people can have the virus and be asymptomatic — which may not present a problem so long as everyone is wearing face masks and taking other precautions — but how did a passenger with COVID symptoms get away with lying to take the flight?

Airline personnel use infrared forehead thermometers to check passengers for high temperatures before a flight is boarded. Other than that, however, they have no way to confirm infections and, so, rely on passengers to truthfully report any possible COVID-19 symptoms on their health declaration forms.

Many who are infected will have fevers, but some will not. As with the above-referenced passenger, the loss of taste and smell can be an early symptom of a COVID infection, before even fever and cough.

Doctors recommend anyone experiencing any symptom of COVID, even if it’s minor, to get tested and also quarantine in place pending the results of the test. That might mean delaying a flight for up to 14 days, but, considering that most of us have delayed our flights for almost a year now, that should be a piece of cake.

Before I sign off this month, I want to give credit to one of our subscribers, Robert Siebert of Jamaica, New York.

We took his advice after he wrote, “All issues of ITN feature a small photograph on the title page followed by the same picture, full-page size, on page 1. My suggestion is that you redesignate the title page as page 1, which would make room for the printing of more submissions from subscribers.”

What Robert called the “title page,” we refer to as the “front wrap.” The wrap, front and back, is a slightly heavier stock than the rest of the newsprint inside, as it holds up better in the mailing process.

We actually turned the front wrap into the cover-photo page starting with the December 2020 issue. I just didn’t have room to thank Robert until now. Thanks, Robert. Smart idea!

We’re open to suggestions from any of our subscribers and give consideration to each one. This magazine has always been a group project.