With Thanksgiving just over a week away, the enormous surge in Covid-19 cases across the United States is reflected in a spike in TSA officers testing positive for the illness.
Over the past fortnight, TSA officers at 86 U.S. airports have tested positive for Covid-19. The list includes nine of the 10 busiest airports in the country — Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson, Chicago O’Hare, Los Angeles, Dallas-Fort Worth, New York’s JFK, Denver, Las Vegas’ McCarran, Phoenix Sky and Houston’s George Bush Intercontinental.
Many smaller airports are also being impacted. In the Midwest alone, TSA officers have recently tested positive for Covid-19 at regional airports in Waterloo, Iowa; Brainerd, Minnesota; North Platte and Kearney, Nebraska; Evansville, Indiana; Manhattan and Garden City, Kansas; Joplin, Missouri; and Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Since the pandemic began in March, over 2,800 TSA employees have tested positive for Covid-19 and eight have died, according to the agency. The vast majority of affected TSA officers are screeners who come into close contact with passengers and their belongings.
It’s been a challenge to keep TSA agents and travelers infection-free as the nationwide Covid-19 caseload increases. Four out of five states are now “at a tipping point,” according to the risk-assessment map run by the Harvard Global Health Institute and Brown School of Public Health.
While domestic air travel is still down about 60% compared to where it was this time last year, millions of Americans are expected to fly over the Thanksgiving weekend period.