Washington DC January 13,2022
While talking at a news conference this week about the large number of employees who had fallen victim to the Coronavirus since the Thanksgiving holiday, a spokesperson for the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), dropped a bombshell.
While previously reporting that the agency had lost 18 TSA security officers and two private security contractors to COVID-19, the true actual number was revealed in a more direct and honest accounting while talking to reporters.
Thirty-four TSA employees and two screening contractors have died after contracting the virus and TSA has cumulatively had 16,883 federal employees test positive for Covid-19 according to the statement made this week.
Private Officer International has previously reported the number of TSA deaths to be eighteen and two contractors based on the TSA’s own statements. Although, internally, we have estimated that TSA security officer deaths were somewhere between 40-75, based on the number of their employees who had tested positive for the virus.
This week, TSA also reported that there were 3,694 employees with active Covid-19 infections, according to agency data, roughly 7% of the agency’s screeners.
For context, the week before the omicron variant was first identified in the United States, there were 275 positive Covid-19 cases among the TSA’s ranks.
Like others who work in public-facing jobs, TSA employees have been testing positive for the coronavirus in record-breaking numbers. The skyrocketing of cases at the agency is an 1,243% increase since Thanksgiving.
Over the past two weeks, TSA officers at 202 U.S. airports have tested positive for Covid-19. The list includes all of the 20 busiest hub airports in the country and comprises 46% of federalized airports.
TSA employees who test positive for Covid-19 may not return to the workplace until at least 10 calendar days have passed since taking the test or experiencing symptoms.
To date, the thousands of impacted screeners on leave due to Covid-19 have caused minimal disruption to airport queues across the country, according to the agency.
So far, the sole exception is Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), where the TSA has temporarily consolidated security checkpoints in Terminal 4, beginning last Friday. “Wait times for non-PreCheck passengers could be up to 30 minutes and passengers should plan their arrivals accordingly,” said R. Carter Langston, a TSA spokesperson, via email. “We urge travelers to be patient as they head to PHX airport and go through security. Current security wait times are available on skyharbor.com or travelers can check the wait times on the flight information screens in the airport terminals.”
More airports may be affected as the number of positive cases among TSA screeners continues to rise. “We are monitoring others because communities and transportation systems have been hard hit by increasing Covid infections,” said Langston.
November 22, 2021 was the deadline by which all federal employees must either be vaccinated against Covid-19 or get a religious or medical exemption, per President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate.
Over 96% of TSA employees are currently fully vaccinated, a statistic that has likely saved many from serious illness and hospitalization. “The chief objective remains full compliance with the vaccination requirement and a workforce protected against hospitalization and death from Covid-19,” Langston said.
Information from Forbes.com contributed to this story.