- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 3, 2020

ATLANTA — Passengers who flew on a jet with a Georgia man who later tested positive for the COVID-19 virus were never screened based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, local health officials said Tuesday.

The 56-year-old Fulton County man had traveled to Atlanta from Milan, Italy on Feb. 22 and didn’t show symptoms of the disease until a few days after his flight, county health officials said at a Tuesday news briefing.

“The recommendations from CDC were that the travelers on the plane did not need to be tested at this time,” said Dr. S. Elizabeth Ford, interim director of the Fulton County Department of Health.

“At the time that he landed he was asymptomatic, and so at this point we are not concerned about travelers,” she added. “At this point, according to the CDC, the infectivity rate occurs when the patients become symptomatic,” she added.

The man went to a doctor a few days after arriving home, and also had been notified that people at the same conference he had attended in Italy had tested positive for COVID-19, Ford said. The man and his son then tested positive and are recovering at home. Health officials have tested two other family members in the household, and were awaiting those results Tuesday.

Georgia this week became the 12th U.S. state to report confirmed coronavirus infections after the man and his son tested positive. Total U.S. cases have topped 100. Six people have died, all of them in Washington state.

Georgia health officials say they don’t believe passengers on the man’s flight or at Atlanta’s airport were put at risk because he wasn’t showing symptoms.

“This individual wasn’t symptomatic on the plane, and so we don’t believe he was infectious,” said Dr. Kathleen Toomey, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Public Health.

Toomey said health officials obtain information about passengers arriving in the U.S. from China in a way that differs from passengers from Italy and South Korea. The vast majority of deaths have occurred in China, but in recent weeks the virus has been spreading rapidly through Italy and South Korea.

“At this present time we are not receiving lists of names of passengers from Italy and South Korea the way we still are receiving lists of names of passengers from China, and that’s just the way the system is set up,” she said. “What has been set up has been largely for the individuals returning from China.”

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