CORONAVIRUS

More Than 1,000 TSA Employees Test Positive For COVID-19

Employees are now required to clean or change gloves between passenger interactions and wear face shields in addition to masks.

More than 1,000 employees of the Transportation Security Administration have tested positive for COVID-19, according to figures released Thursday by the agency.

At least 907 were airport security officers who worked screening passengers. Six workers and a contractor have died of the disease, per the TSA.

Union President Hydrick Thomas acknowledged an ongoing struggle to keep workers and passengers safe as travelers start flying again.

“Right now they’re bringing people back to work and the social distance is not in total effect,” Thomas told The Washington Post. “Employees are still complaining there’s too many of them in one area.”

The TSA implemented new safety measures just before the July 4th holiday, following a complaint in June over “gross mismanagement” of safety protocol by whistleblower Jay Brainerd, a TSA director who supervises security at airports in Kansas. TSA officers must now clean their gloves or change into a fresh pair between interactions with passengers to avoid cross-contamination, Brainerd told CNN. Officers must wear face shields in addition to masks. 

Transparent screens will also be erected between TSA officers and passengers at locations where they interact without social distancing, such as during ID checks.

According to the agency’s data, the airports where the most TSA personnel have contracted COVID-19 were New York’s JFK (116), Newark Liberty International (69), Miami International (56), Chicago’s O’Hare (42), Orlando International (40), Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International (39) and New York’s LaGuardia (39).

The first TSA staffer to die of the disease was Newark airport K-9 officer Francis “Big Frank” Boccabella, who died on April 2. He was 39.

“When we all heard that he passed away, it hit a lot of the workers very hard,” Thomas told the Post.


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