It has been revealed this week that more than 1,000 workers from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) have become infected with COVID-19. The vast majority of those work in passenger screening roles and to date, six employees have died from the virus.
More than 1,000 test positive
Frontline workers in customer-facing positions have been most at risk of contracting COVID-19, particularly those in the travel industry. Despite calls to improve the working conditions for TSA staff, the latest figures released indicate that more than 1,000 employees of the Administration have now tested positive for coronavirus.
The figures, released Thursday, were reported by the Washington Post. Almost every worker that has contracted COVID-19 has been working screening passengers at airports during the pandemic.
President of the TSA workers union, Hydrick Thomas, told the Washington Post that,
“Right now, they’re bringing people back to work and the social distance is not in total effect. Employees are still complaining there’s too many of them in one area.”
In the early days of the outbreak, passengers traveling slumped to almost nothing. However, in the past few weeks, despite the cases of the virus continuing to creep up in the US, many people are returning to the skies, with more than three million traveling over the July 4th holiday weekend.
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New York’s JFK airport remains the worst hit location, with 116 employees testing positive there. However, cases are spread right across the country, with officers from 43 different airports having tested positive in the past fortnight.
In total, 1,018 employees have tested positive for COVID-19. 907 of these work as screening officers. To date, six TSA workers have died from the virus, along with one contractor.
Is enough being done to keep TSA workers safe?
Last month, a TSA official had stepped into the role of whistleblower and had told media that the agency was failing to protect its workers. Jay Brainard, the top TSA official in Kansas, told the press,
“I have no doubt whatsoever that our people became Typhoid Marys and contributed to the spread of that virus because TSA senior leadership did not make sure (screeners) were adequately protected.”
Since then, the TSA has stepped up its efforts to provide protection, and has mandated face coverings for its officers. It has also installed face shields in some cases and has requested more frequent changing of gloves after officers come into contact with travelers and their belongings.
However, Thomas said that some of the rollout had not gone ahead as expected. In the early stages of the pandemic, a shortage of gloves made life difficult. Although that has now been resolved, other issues remain, including face shields being unavailable and not every workspace having a plastic protective screen installed.
Thomas believes more should be done. He believes workers should be having regular health screenings and temperature checks. As passenger traffic continues to climb, keeping TSA workers safe and protected will continue to be crucial.