Coronavirus: Oakland Southwest gate agent tests positive for COVID-19, I-Team asks if passengers will get informed

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The ABC7 News I-Team has confirmed that a Southwest Airlines gate agent has tested positive for the novel coronavirus and that he last worked on Sunday at Oakland International.

Some Southwest employees are now worried about the spread of the virus.

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The employees sent the I-Team pictures of Terminal 2 with workers doing a deep clean.

The airport says the agent worked at Gate 23, which has been cordoned off, and at Gates 25, 26 and 27, and that he used the bathroom at the Terminal 2 baggage claim.

Southwest tells ABC7 News, "... an enhanced cleaning of the gate areas was performed, in accordance with applicable guidelines."

They also shut down and cleaned the bathroom.

A maintenance worker tells ABC7 he has been directed to go heavy on the hydrogen peroxide.

Veteran Southwest flight attendant Carolyn Montgomery is not worried.

"I'm not going to touch anything, I've touched my bag so far and I'm going to walk right in the door and sit down on the plane and I'm sure Southwest and the airport have done everything they're supposed to do to take care of that," said Montgomery

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But other Southwest employees who would not go on camera citing company policy do have concerns.

One flight attendant messaged me, "We are all worried (about) him and as well as the other employees that worked with him (this) past week. Who knows if they are all carriers. We're just hoping that everyone else is okay and didn't get infected."

Dan Noyes: "He tested postive."
Pete Ellingson, Southwest Passenger: "At this gate?"
Dan Noyes: "At this gate. "

What about passengers who have been flying?

The few passengers ABC7 saw flying on Southwest Thursday took the news in stride.

"Because of the spacing and the time they've had to clean up, I believe Southwest probably took care of it. And we're still staying spaced," said Southwest passenger Pete Ellingson.

"For me, I do not care. I'm young, I'm considerably healthy, so my immune system will take care of it," said San Diego College student Noah Rehm.

But what about people who were flying the day the infected gate agent worked? How many passengers did he come in contact with?

Gate agents the I-Team they are working six or seven flights a day right now, and a pilot says he's carrying between ten and 18 or 20 passengers. So do the math, dozens of people could have been exposed.

Southwest would not ABC7 whether they are notifying passengers. Their emailed statement says, "Unfortunately, we don't have further specifics to confirm today. Southwest has followed all CDC reporting guidelines to support the safety of our Employees and Customers."

I-Team's Dan Noyes asked ABC7 Special Correspondent, Dr. Alok Patel about this case and how coronavirus can spread.

"Anyone who may have been exchanging a boarding pass with him or touching the same counter or using the same bathroom or something, should at least be aware that there has been a potential exposure. Being around somebody who has tested positive is a risk factor we already know about," said Dr. Patel.

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Dr. Patel says the odds of infection are slim from Sunday, after the gate agent left work, through Tuesday night, the time of the deep clean.

"One thing to keep in mind is it's possible that somebody else was infected from him, maybe a TSA agent for example and then they were going to another part of the airport and possibly getting other people infected," said Dr. Patel.

For a look at more stories and videos by the ABC7 News I-Team go here.

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