As airlines continue to offer the cheapest fares in history, passengers are continuing to take to the skies during COVID-19. Airlines have issued many protocols to ensure safety, but the Transportation Security Administration has been pretty slack. In fact, a whistleblower complaint from TSA Federal security Director Jay Brainard suggested protection for both TSA agents have been inadequate, according to AARP. As a result, more safety measures have been added, but TSA still has not enforced a rule that may worry passengers flying during COVID-19.
First, the new safety measures and procedures added for TSA security officers, announced July 9, is set to minimize contact between TSA agents and passengers who go through security screening to catch their flights. Passengers may be pleased to hear that TSA offices will now be required to wear face shields or protective eyewear when face to face with passengers. During any security pat-downs, officers must change or clean gloves between passengers.
While the new rules help expand safety at airports, TSA has not enforced one rule that may worry passengers flying during COVID-19: TSA has not enforced passengers to wear face masks. Airlines have made face masks a strict requirement on flights, but the potential for passenger to passenger COVID-19 infection is high indoors without a face mask.
Among many health organizations, CDC announced face coverings help prevent the spread of the virus on July 14. While TSA has more protection with the new rules, passengers are still at risk with no face mask requirement.
This comes at a time where more than 1,171 TSA officers have tested positive for coronavirus, and six have reportedly died, and more passengers begin to travel via plane. While TSA is applauded for announcing staff who test positive for COVID-19, airlines are still under heat for keeping their cases under wraps.
The continued safety measures include the reduction of physical contact. Passengers will place their boarding passes and IDs on the TSA reader or hold up for the TSA agent so there is no contact.
However, due to low flight loads and less passengers in airports (compared to this time last year), TSA has been consolidating checkpoints and many checkin points have been closed. This means you could be in a longer TSA check-in lane that normal, and with no face mask requirement for passengers in security check-in lanes, passengers flying during COVID-19 could worry about infection when traveling.
While TSA is encouraging social distancing in TSA checkpoints, it has not been the case in reality, as many passengers take to social media to show crowded lines with no social distancing. Airports may vary in terms of social distancing enforcement.
TSA is allowing hand sanitizer, up to 12 ounces, per passenger, in carry-on bags, until further notice.
TSA is in close communication with medical professionals, the CDC and various government agencies to ensure health and safety of both employees and passengers, according to the TSA website.
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