TSA adds new coronavirus screening protections following whistleblower complaint

TSA adds new coronavirus screening protections following whistleblower complaint
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The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is implementing a number of new measures to better protect its employees and passengers amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The procedural changes come after TSA federal security director Jay Brainard filed a whistleblower complaint in June detailing how the agency was initially handling the pandemic.

Brainard oversees Kansas airports for the agency.

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"TSA has failed to provide a centralized, proactive response to the pandemic through adequate guidance, authority to enforce public health controls and resources such as personal protective equipment (PPE), authority and basic sanitation controls to prevent unnecessary spread of the COVID-19 virus to airport passengers," a letter from Brainard's lawyer to TSA's Office of Special Counsel read.

Officers must now either clean their gloves or change them between each interaction with passengers to help curb cross-contamination. Additionally, TSA is putting up individual screens to divide the different areas where passengers and TSA officers have to interact but are unable to social distance.

As of Thursday, over 1,000 TSA agents have tested positive for COVID-19, around 90 percent of the positive cases came from TSA employees who screen passengers in-person at airports, The Washington Post first reported

The new safety steps went into effect the night before July 4, Brainard said, with TSA outlining some of the changes on June 30. The holiday weekend saw an influx of people traveling, with TSA screening 2.7 million flight-goers.

"[W]e take the responsibility to protect both passengers and our employees from COVID-19 very seriously," agency spokesman R. Carter Langston said in a statement. "Internally, we are consistently communicating about our COVID-19 mitigation efforts to help contain community spread of the COVID-19 virus."