Orlando International Airport Clarifies: No Coronavirus Outbreak Among Employees

An airport employees pushes a cleaning cart through the terminal at Orlando International Airport after it was closed due to the anticipated arrival of Hurricane Dorian on the East Coast Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/AP Photo

The Orlando International Airport (MCO) on Wednesday clarified that there is no coronavirus outbreak at the facility among employees — a clarification that came after Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) indicated that 260 of 500 workers at an unspecified Florida airport tested positive for the virus.

On Tuesday, DeSantis stated that an airport in Central Florida “had a couple of cases,” adding, “They did the contract tracing. They looked [at] almost 500 workers [and]  260 people working close together were positive, [a] 52 percent positivity rate on that one.”

His remarks sparked confusion, leading MCO to clarify the claim.

“Five hundred tests were performed over three days by the Floria Department of Health at the Orlando International Airport last week,” MCO said in a statement.

Of those, only two tests came back positive.

“We want to clarify that the number of cases recently shared with the media is the total number of cased confirmed at our airport since mid-March through June,” the statement continued, indicating that the total number of cases included non-employees as well.

“In total, there have been 260 confirmed cases, which includes 132 airport employees out of the more-than 25,000 employees who work here,” MCO added. “The other 128 cases are not employees of the airport ,but have traceable connections to our employees”:

Chief Executive Phil Brown noted that numbers, regarding the 500 tests, reflect 0.4 percent positivity rate.

The Florida Department of Health also issued a statement aimed to clear up lingering confusion on the case numbers:

The number of cases at Orlando International Airport is cumulative from March 2020 and includes household close contacts as determined through the extensive epidemiological investigations conducted by the Department of Health.

These cases were all identified from and associated with positive COVID-19 cases linked to the airport. Through collaboration with airport and local authorities and thorough efforts in contact tracing, all the cases were linked and notified.

Last week, the Florida Department of Health in Orange County (DOH-Orange) conducted 500 tests. Only two came back positive and held no risk of exposure to others. DOH-Orange has been active in monitoring and investigating every case at the airport and will continue to ensure the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance and protocols are followed closely.

DeSantis’s office also followed up on the governor’s Tuesday remarks.

“Governor DeSantis has emphasized the benefit of testing for COVID-19 and contact tracing throughout the state. MCO had 132 employees test positive for COVID-19,” communications director Helen Ferre said in a statement.

“Through contact tracing of those employees, an additional 128 individuals not associated with the airport tested positive for COVID-19 resulting in 260 total positive cases,” she continued.

“We appreciate MCO’s commitment to working with the Orange County Health Department, the Florida Department of Health and for ensuring best practices are followed for the health and safety of all employees and visitors to the airport,” she added.

Florida reported 82,719 positive cases in the state and 3,018 related deaths as of Wednesday afternoon.


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