Yesterday the Transport Security Administration announced that all staff members working at screening checkpoints in US airports must wear face masks. Even though passengers are being asked to wear face masks, they must temporarily remove them at checkpoints for identification purposes, thereby putting staff at risk. For many, the announcement by the TSA is very late, as over 500 TSA employees have already tested positive for the virus.
It might appear to be a fairly obvious statement, but apparently, the TSA felt it should be said anyway. The organization issued a press release last night stating that all staff members at checkpoints in the US must wear face masks. The statement confirms that,
“The decision to require TSA officers to wear facial protection will be implemented over the coming days.”
Many airlines have asked staff and passengers to wear masks, some as long as four weeks ago.
Security checkpoints at airports do not allow for social distancing measures to be adhered to, so the importance of a physical barrier is critical. However, the TSA has said that protective eyewear is voluntary. Research suggests that the virus can be admitted into the body through the eyes.
Too little, too late
Although the announcement is a step in the right direction for both TSA staff and passengers, it does seem to be a bit late. Especially when considering that 534 TSA staff have already contracted the virus, and six of these cases were fatal. Just 290 have fully recovered. The announcement for the mandatory use of facemasks comes just a day after the death of a Chicago TSA employee. It’s thought he contracted the virus at the airport in April.
Considering the company’s website says they are “taking extraordinary measures” to protect staff, the introduction of compulsory face masks over a month later than others does seem extraordinary. Although perhaps not in the way the TSA means. Yesterday, the TSA also released a story about a staff member who has sewn and shipped 600 facemasks. Maybe they should have asked her to make some for her colleagues.
Other safety measures
However, the TSA is being asked to take other steps to prevent the spread of the disease. It has said it is looking into more ways to protect staff, and there is speculation this may include mandatory temperature checks at security. This may make the security line a little longer than usual. However, it should prevent infected passengers from interacting with too many people.
Another reason you might find your security queue a little longer than average is that the TSA is making special exceptions for anyone taking hand sanitizer in their cabin bag. The size restriction has been adapted to allow for any sanitizer larger than the standard 3.4 ounces (100ml). But this does require extra screening. It may not be an issue now as so few people are traveling, but when restrictions are lifted, security queues will likely be longer than ever.
While many are happy to hear that the TSA is implementing protective measures, many are confused as to why this wasn’t brought in earlier. The TSA should be implementing strict protective measures as their staff comes into contact with so many people. Especially considering social distancing is impossible. But, better late than never, and hopefully, we will see more protective measures introduced soon.
What do you think? Should the TSA have introduced face masks sooner? What do you think of introducing more checks at security checkpoints to find passengers who may have the virus?