A top-ranking Transportation Security Administration (TSA) official is charging that the TSA helped to spread coronavirus by failing to provide proper protective gear for airport screeners who have daily close contact with travelers.
TSA Federal Security Director Jay Brainard has been with the agency for nearly 20 years. He alleges that the agency showed “gross mismanagement” in its response to the coronavirus crisis. He says they didn’t adequately train TSA officers for the pandemic, and wouldn’t allow supervisors to give line workers stockpiled N95 respirators in the early days of the pandemic when it was difficult to find disposable surgical masks.
“You’ve got communities shutting down. You’ve got governors shutting things down. And we still hadn’t mandated masks. We still hadn’t mandated eyewear. We still weren’t changing personal protective equipment as often as we needed to,” Brainard said. “Every federal security director was forced to fend for him or herself.”
“I have no doubt whatsoever that our people became Typhoid Marys and contributed to the spread of that virus because TSA senior leadership did not make sure (screeners) were adequately protected,” Brainard told The AP.
The TSA claims that it’s been following the guidelines set Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in deciding protection standards for workers. Spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein said that:
- at the start of the virus outbreak, TSA told employees that masks were optional, then made them mandatory at airport checkpoints in the first week of May [Note from Sharon: the first week of May was what, 7 weeks after the virus was labeled a pandemic? THAT’S when they made them mandatory?]
- airport officers are required to wear nitrile gloves when they screen passengers. They must change gloves after every pat-down, and travelers can request the use of new gloves at any time [Note from Sharon: Brainard reports screeners have not been told to change gloves after every pat-down]
- plastic barriers have been installed at security checkpoints and areas where checked bags are dropped off for screening [Note from Sharon: based on research, those appeared to have been installed in May. Maybe April. Again, the pandemic began in March].
Brainard says there’s still no procedure for what to do if they have travelers who appear to be ill. He added there’s also still little or no contact-tracing after TSA personnel become sick (to date, over 700 TSA employees have tested positive for the 2019 novel coronavirus, and 5 officers, plus 1 screening contractor have died from the virus).
On June 3, Brainard filed a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, which handles whistleblower complaints. The Department of Homeland Security will conduct an investigation into the allegations. The result of that will be shared with Congress, the White House and eventually released to the public.
This is the third time in his tenure at the TSA that Brainard filed a whistleblower complaint.
#stayhealthy #staysafe #washyourhands
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary