TSA Will Now Require Employees To Wear Facial Protection

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Wait, I know I haven’t been to an airport in 2 months, and perhaps this was a huge assumption on my part, but face masks haven’t been required for TSA agents up to this point!?

Yesterday (7 May 2020), the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced that its employees must wear facial protection while at screening checkpoints and the policy will be implemented over the coming days. 

Yes, you read that correctly…over the coming days.

LATE IS BETTER THAN NOTHING?

I find this announcement to be interesting for a number of reasons.

First, TSA encourages passengers to wear facial protection in the announcement. Meanwhile many airlines actually require passengers to wear facial protection. I find it confusing that this policy applied to airlines but had not been extended to the security checkpoints where many people are in close proximity to each other (and perhaps, closer proximity given the empty flights).

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the announcement is that TSA specifically says:

TSA follows the guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration regarding workforce protection. Travelers are reminded to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) travel and prevention guidance regaring COVID-19.

It’s not the fact that they misspelled “regarding” but the fact that the CDC published “social distancing” guidance (i.e. keep 6 feet of physical distance from others) weeks ago.

If you are following the guidance of the CDC, I believe they should’ve implemented this policy well before now. In fact, TSA saw their lowest number of passengers pass through screening checkpoints 14 April 2020 (~87,000 passengers). I would argue that at a minimum, that’s when facial masks should have been required but that was nearly a month ago.

FINAL STAMP

It’s physically impossible to “social distance” at a screening check point. You’re handing the agent your boarding pass, placing your phone (and mobile boarding pass) on the scanner, and handing over your identification. You’re, literally, within an arm’s reach of the person.

With more than 500 TSA employees testing positive for COVID-19, I’m a confused how this policy had not been implemented earlier. It’s not only a safety precaution for the general (flying) public but also the agents themselves.

This policy seems a bit delayed but I guess now is better than never?

What are your thoughts about this announcement?

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