Federal workers including Transportation and Security Administration employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Monday. This raises concerns about understaffing in airports as many people travel to Thanksgiving and the holidays.
President Biden’s executive order goes into effect Monday, but as of last week, an estimated 40% of TSA agents at airports had not been vaccinated against COVID-19, with the American Federation of Government Employees warning of potential staff shortages during the holidays.
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“They are not going to be ready for Christmas if they get rid of everybody who chooses not to get vaccinated,” Hydrick Thomas, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees’ division representing airline security officers, told Bloomberg News last week.
“If they don’t accommodate employees during these holidays coming upon us, we are going to have an issue with the screening process,” Thomas said.
Representative John Katko and Sen. Roger Wicker from Miss. raised concerns this month over potential staffing issues that could affect the transportation sector.
“Based on the current percentage of vaccination amongst the TSA workforce, we are concerned about the potential disruptions significant non-compliance with the President’s EO could have on the agency’s operations,” Wicker and Katko wrote to TSA Administrator David Pekoske in a joint letter, requesting information on any “contingency plans” the TSA has to handle the potential “sizable reduction in its workforce” resulting from the mandate.
Pekoske stated that the agency can handle the increase in holiday traveller regardless of vaccine mandate.
Pekoske stated that the mandate would make travel safer for all and better for everybody. “So, we see quite a significant increase in the number of our officers that are vaccinated, and I’m very confident that there will be no impact for Thanksgiving.”
“We are prepared,” Pekoske told ABC’s “Good Morning America,” but warned that travelers should still expect long wait times to pass through security at airports across the country due to the surge in holiday travelers.
According to the American Automobile Association, 53.4 Million People will Travel This Year. It will mark the largest single-year growth since 2005.
AAA reported that holiday travel is on the rise by 13% compared to 2020. This brings volumes within 5%. pre-pandemic levels.
It Transportation Security Administration (TSA).The airline expects to screen around 20 million people during Thanksgiving.
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The most busy days for businesses are usually the Tuesday and Wednesday before and after Thanksgiving, and Sunday thereafter.
Although travel volume is unlikely to surpass pre-pandemic levels, nearly 2.9million people were checked at TSA security checkpoints across the country. However, TSA said that it expects to see a significant increase in traffic during the Thanksgiving holiday.
We expect that holiday travel could be at or near pre-pandemic levels. Therefore, we have prepared staff and supplies for those holiday travelers. We have deployed technologies that enhance detection capabilities and reduce physical contact, and it’s equally important that passengers are prepared with travel tips for the most efficient checkpoint experience,” Pekoske said. With overall vaccination rates rising and more confidence in health travel, we will see more people travelling. So plan ahead and be kind.
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TSA’s website states that 273 TSA workers have COVID-19 infection. These workers are staying home “to keep the traveling public safe.”
The TSA also said that since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the agency cumulatively had 11,171 federal employees test positive for COVID-19—10,898 of those employees recovered, but 32 “unfortunately died after contracting the virus.” TSA said two COVID infection-related screening workers also died.
Julia Musto, Fox News reporter, and The Associated Press contributor to this report.