Note: this article, featuring our client Jay Brainard, was originally published here.
TSA Adds Coronavirus-Related Measures After Whistleblower Accused Agency of Not Doing Enough
The precautions are designed to keep both TSA agents and travelers safer.
The head of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has added more safety precautions to be taken by agents after a whistleblower accused the agency of “gross mismanagement” in responding to the coronavirus pandemic.
The TSA has increased coronavirus-related safety measures following a conversation with Jay Brainard, the TSA’s director in Kansas, who filed a whistleblower complaint against the agency last month.
As part of the new precautions, TSA officers will be required to wear eye protection when not separated from passengers by a plastic shield or barrier, as well as change their gloves after patting down passengers, handling luggage or passenger documents, a media release from TSA reported.
The new protocols are being implemented this month, the release said, with many airports already having adopted the changes going into the July Fourth weekend last week. Independence Day weekend saw passenger traffic above 700,000 for the first time since “the early days of the pandemic,” administrator David Pekoske said.
Brainard said in an updated statement to SF Gate that the new measures will “make air travel safer for the public and enhance protective measures in the workplace for our front line employees.”
The whistleblower said the agency had not taken “adequate steps to make sure that we were not becoming carriers and spreaders of the virus ourselves” during the start of the COVID-19 crisis, citing a major lack of PPE and no guidance for agents on how to protect themselves and others, NPR reported.
But Brainard has said he still has concerns for the agency, like increasing education around how to handle sick passengers or more specific training on dealing with COVID-19 specifically.
The TSA has been increasing security measures in response to the outbreak as summer travel increases.
In May, the agency added social distancing markers on the floor for passengers to keep the recommended 6-feet distance from each other while waiting in line. It also allowed travelers to carry on a 12-ounce container of liquid hand sanitizer, among other protocols.
However, one security measure that has not rolled out in airports – and may not ever – is temperature screenings.
Pekoske has previously questioned their effectiveness at detecting coronavirus.
“I know in talking to our medical professionals and talking to the Centers for Disease Control [CDC] is that temperature checks are not a guarantee that passengers who don’t have an elevated temperature also don’t have COVID-19,” Pekoske said during a previous teleconference.