Note: this article, featuring our client Jay Brainard, was originally published here.
TSA Officers At 47 U.S. Airports Tested COVID-19 Positive In Past 2 Weeks
Over the past two weeks, TSA officers at nearly four dozen U.S. airports have tested positive for COVID-19, according to data from the Transportation Security Administration. During that period, at least one officer tested positive at each of the top 10 busiest airports in the country.
The vast majority of affected TSA officers are screeners who come into close contact with passengers and their belongings.
While the 47 impacted airports are located from coast to coast, some states that are current COVID-19 hot spots are particularly hard hit.
Over the period from June 24 to July 7, at least one TSA officer in each of Arizona’s two largest airports — Phoenix Sky International Airport and Tucson International Airports — tested positive.
A whopping eight airports in Florida — a state that just recorded its largest number of COVID-related deaths in a single day — had TSA officers test positive within the past two weeks. These include Orlando International Airport, Orlando Sanford International Airport, Miami International Airport, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, Tampa International Airport, St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport, Jacksonville International Airport and Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport.
Over recent weeks, Texas has set grim records in key COVID-19 metrics such as hospitalizations and deaths. During that time, TSA officers tested positive in five Texas airports — Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, San Antonio International Airport, George Bush Intercontinental Airport and William P. Hobby Airport. The latter two airports are both located in Houston.
TSA officers at four airports in Georgia — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport, Southwest Georgia Regional Airport and Valdosta Regional Airport — have also tested positive for COVID-19.
Since the pandemic began last spring, more than 1,000 TSA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus and six have died, according to the agency.
This week, the TSA announced it would be beefing up its efforts to better protect employees and passengers following a recent whistleblower complaint that raised concerns about the agency’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Jay Brainard, the top TSA official in Kansas, filed a complaint last month with the Office of Special Counsel alleging that the agency failed to provide enough protective equipment to personnel who had direct interactions with the traveling public.
“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,” Brainard told the Associated Press last month.
TSA officers will now wear face shields in addition to face masks where an acrylic barrier is not present between agents and passengers. In an effort to prevent possible cross-contamination, officers will also be required to change or clean their gloves between each interaction, including pat downs, ID checks and bag inspections.
Earlier this month, the TSA announced the death of its sixth employee due to COVID-19 with the passing of Paul Muao, Miami International Airport Lead Transportation Security Officer, who was one of the first employees to join TSA after the agency’s creation one year after 9/11.
“He was a leader and professional who gave his all for his colleagues, the nation and our mission,” the agency said.