A couple’s return from a recent trip to Mexico turned into an ordeal that they’ll never forget after they tested positive for COVID, but what happened after that has left them concerned for their fellow passengers.
Nick Perri says he and his girlfriend recently took a five-day trip to Cancun, but just a few days into the trip, they began coughing and feeling congested.
“We just thought it was a cold,” he said.
Perri says that both he and his girlfriend are fully vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19, and when they were preparing to return to the United States, they took rapid COVID tests in accordance with U.S. policy. Those tests came back negative.
Just to be safe, the couple both wore masks on their flight home Sunday.
“We were coughing. We wore masks, but we were taking them off frequently to blow our noses,” he said. “It was a full flight, and almost non one was wearing masks.”
When they got back home to suburban Batavia, they took more COVID tests. Perri tested himself twice, and both tests came back positive. His girlfriend, who was still feeling symptoms, tested negative.
“We are not sure if she was past the contagious stage, but I am in the throes of it,” he said.
Perri says that the first thing he did after his positive tests was to call Southwest Airlines so that the company could perform contact tracing.
Instead, Perri says that the company brushed him off.
“She put me on hold for a few minutes, and then said ‘tell your doctors you have COVID,’ and that was it,” he said. “Nothing else happened.”
Perri says that he was shocked that the company didn’t tell him that they were planning on performing contact tracing, informing fellow passengers that someone they had traveled with had tested positive for COVID.
In a statement, Southwest Airlines told NBC 5 that they still follow CDC reporting guidelines for COVID-19, and that they have a contact tracing policy in place.
Doctors say that what happened to Perri and his girlfriend is an all-too-common event. According to experts, PCR tests are more reliable and accurate, and represent the best way to keep travelers and their fellow passengers safe when traveling abroad.
“Those traveling internationally should take a PCR test at least 48 hours before the trip, and then use layered mitigation strategies, including masking,” Dr. Jay Bhatt of the Family Christian Health Center said.
Doctors say that if you can’t find a PCR test abroad, then the next-best thing is to test several times with rapid testing kits before boarding a plane.