Tampa coronavirus patient says CDC did not take her health concerns seriously

Friends who traveled took a vacation to Italy have tested positive for the COVID-19 coronavirus in Hillsborough County, and now one of them insists she tried to warn authorities that she was sick before she boarded her connecting flight from New York to Tampa International Airport.

The two women – who represent two of the three coronavirus patients in Florida – are both their 20s. They recently got back from a trip to Italy, a country under a travel warning by the CDC.

The woman says they had masks with them and wore them as a precaution in Italy, and also used sanitizing wipes. But during the last few days of their trip, one of them began feeling unwell. They both got a plane back to the U.S., and the already sick woman noticed her health getting worse. 

Once she landed in New York, she says she had a fever. The 29-year-old said she called the CDC to let them know where she had been and how she was feeling but, despite her flu-like symptoms and travel history, she says she was cleared to fly from New York back to Tampa.

"No one sounded prepared. No one at the CDC sounded prepared or educated on what was going on. When talking about an outbreak in Milan, Italy, I think they should know what part of the country that’s in," she told FOX 13 by phone.

It wasn't until she landed in Tampa that she was tested for novel coronavirus COVID-19.

While she wants to remain anonymous, she said she's frustrated she wasn't taken seriously, sooner.

“I 1,000% had symptoms when I landed in the states. I don’t blame Tampa. We were coming in from another domestic flight,” she added.

That was a week ago. Since then, she and her friend have been in self-quarantine at her house, remaining out of contact with anyone. The women say they are both doing OK, just trying to recover.

She told FOX 13 News they had groceries delivered to her home.

"It feels like we’re the test dummy. We are walking everyone through the procedure for the next bout of confirmations.”

They declined to say specifically what flights they were on. They did say they wore protestive masks during their travels and they have since provided their travel details to the CDC.

FOX 13 has reached out to the CDC and we are awaiting an official response to these claims.

Meanwhile, Tampa Airport spokesperson Emily Nipps told FOX 13 that the airport has "stepped up" its cleaning and sanitation efforts, "particularly around high-touch areas." Nipps said extra hand sanitizer and signage were being placed throughout the facilities.

If you feel sick

The Florida Department of Health has opened a COVID-19 Call Center at 1-866-779-6121. Agents will answer questions Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Questions may also be emailed to covid-19@flhealth.gov. Email responses will be sent during call center hours.

LINK: Florida's COVID-19 website
CORONAVIRUS IN FLORIDA: What you need to know