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Hawaiian Couple Arrested For Flying Home After Positive COVID-19 Tests

Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson mugshots
Source: Kauai Police Department

Dec. 3 2020, Updated 6:07 p.m. ET

A couple was arrested on Sunday, November 29, when they boarded a flight home to Hawaii, despite both of them testing positive for COVID-19 and being instructed to quarantine. 

Wesley Moribe and Courtney Peterson got on a plane from San Francisco, Calif., to Lihua, Hawaii, even though they had been told to isolate by the Quarantine Station at the San Francisco International Airport, Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck explained in a press release. 

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The couple was arrested once they arrived in Lihue and were charged with second degree reckless endangering. They were released on a $1,000 bail each, while their 4-year-old child was taken into care by a family member, and Child Protective Services were contacted. 

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The investigation determined that the couple "knowingly boarded a flight aware of their positive COVID-19 test results, placing the passengers of the flight in danger of death," and Moribe and Peterson were escorted to an isolation room upon arrival, while their child was taken to a separate isolation unit.

Kauai Mayor Derk Kawakami addressed the arrests over the weekend in a COVID-19 briefing on Facebook. "We have seen an unprecedented surge in new infections on our island, most of them associated with travelers ― both visitors and residents," he said. Moribe and Peterson were two of four COVID-19 cases in Kauai that weekend. One positive case was another resident, and the other was a visitor to the island. 

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United Airlines told PEOPLE that they are "investigating this matter further to assess these passengers' ability to fly on United in the future."

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"The health and safety of our employees and customers is our highest priority, which is why we have various policies and procedures in place as part of a multi-layered approach to create a safer travel environment," the airline stated. "Prior to traveling, all United customers are required to complete a 'Ready to Fly' checklist acknowledging they have not been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the last 14 days."

The Kauai press release said, "We continue to request visitors and residents alike to follow the Governor's Emergency Rules and take all necessary precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19." 

San Francisco International Airport did not comment to PEOPLE but explained that "the airport would not be routinely informed on where passengers get tested, nor would the airport be advised of a positive test result."

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Hawaii quickly clamped down on the coronavirus pandemic in March and implemented a 14-day quarantine and closed the border to tourists. In October, the state planned to reopen the border to visitors but with restrictions. The 14-day quarantine upon arrival was not required, as long as tourists’ COVID-19 tests were returned with a negative result within 72 hours of the flight. Travelers must also create a Safe Travels profile before traveling to Hawaii, and those who do not get a pre-travel test must quarantine. 

It is not yet known if Moribe and Peterson have found an attorney. 

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