Army veteran tests positive for COVID, dies after taking multi-state trip with Catawba County tour bus company

North Carolina

CATAWBA COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – A woman whose grandfather died after she says he tested positive for COVID-19 is warning others about a trip her grandparents took with a Catawba County tour bus company.

FOX 46 spoke with the owner of Burke Christian Tours and asked if any COVID-19 cases have been connected to the ongoing tours. She said the company recently found out about ‘something’ and they’re investigating exactly what happened.

“He always had a tall tale to tell, every story; he was a Korean War veteran,” Summer Johnson said.

Joe, a retired pastor, was in his 80s. His granddaughter says Joe and his wife Linda loved to travel. The couple lived in Lincolnton and were married for 65 years.

“It has been a whirlwind I’m still processing everything,” Johnson told FOX 46.

Johnson says both of her grandparents tested positive for COVID-19. Her grandfather, Joe, passed away on Monday night.

“He lived a full happy life and I think in COVID times being able to pass away with his beloved wife and a granddaughter by his side is probably about as good as it gets,” she said.

Johnson says her grandparents went on a week-long trip Nov. 8 through Nov. 14 to Virginia, West Virginia, and Ohio with Burke Christian Tours in Maiden in Catawba County.

Four days after they returned from the trip, Johnson says her grandfather started having symptoms similar to a sinus infection, and then two days after that, Johnson says her grandfather really wasn’t doing well.

“I got another message from my dad that my granddad had gotten progressively sicker, he had a higher fever, he was still at home,” Johnson said.

Three days later, Johnson’s grandfather died.

FOX 46 got in contact with the owner of Burke Christian Tours by phone Tuesday afternoon. When asked if there were any COVID-19 cases connected to the company’s tours, the owner did not specifically refer to Johnson’s grandparents but said the company recently found out about ‘something’ and they’re investigating the circumstances behind what happened.

“I do not blame Burke Tours for the death of my grandfather because I acknowledge that there is culpability of people who choose to go on tours during a pandemic but I also feel there are a lot of important questions and acknowledgments that need to be answered and made,” Johnson said.

Burke Christian Tours tells FOX 46 it is very concerned about the health and well-being of its employees and customers and that the company always keeps in contact with its customers.

Just after 12 p.m., the Catawba County Health Department told FOX 46 it had not received any reports of COVID-19 cases connected to the company’s tours. FOX 46 reached back out again Tuesday evening to see if there was an update. The Health Department only told FOX 46 “we haven’t received any new information to share.”

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