The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has reported a surge in COVID-19 infections amongst its workforce two weeks after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend saw many travellers defy public health advice to travel around the country by air.
Around 830 TSA staffers are currently infected with COVID-19 – a 38 per cent increase on the number reported as being infected on Thanksgiving Day. New cases have been reported at nearly 100 airports across the United States despite TSA screeners wearing personal protective equipment.
One of the hardest-hit airports is Las Vegas McCarran International Airport, where the number of active infections has risen by 55 per cent since November 19. And at Philadelphia International Airport, the number of active infections have more than tripled in the last two weeks.
Nearly 4,000 employees have been infected with COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. The vast majority are said to be airport security screeners who come into close contact with members of the public. It’s unclear, however, where the majority staffers were actually infected.
The worst affected airport with nearly 200 TSA employees succumbing to the novel Coronavirus is Miami International Airport, while Chicago O’Hare isn’t far behind with 176 agents confirmed to have been infected with COVID-19. Los Angeles International Airports comes in third place with 169 confirmed cases.
Passenger numbers peaked in the days before and after the Thanksgiving holiday despite pleas from public health officials to avoid all but essential travel. On November 29, the TSA reported that it had processed 1.17 million passengers through security checkpoints across the country.
The figures represent a drop of almost 60 per cent on what the TSA handled on the same day in 2019 but was still one of the busiest days for the TSA since the start of the pandemic.
In the run-up to the Christmas holiday period, passenger numbers have dropped to below 30 per cent of last year’s levels but the TSA believes many passengers won’t alter their travel plans even has Coronavirus infection rates spike across the country.
David Pekoske, the TSA’s administrator told a virtual travel conference last week that many American’s would continue with their travel plans, although some airlines have reported a significant drop in new bookings and increasing cancellations leading up to Christmas.
If you do need to travel, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests getting tested for COVID-19 before and after you travel. The CDC maintains, however, that it’s safer to postpone travel for the time being as cases rise to alarming new highs.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.