The TSA Has Stopped Reporting How Many Employees Have Covid-19
Following the end of the federal mask mandate, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has made some significant changes to Covid-19 policy in one fell swoop.
Like air passengers, TSA officers are no longer required to wear face masks inside most airports. Just two days ago, face masks became optional after a federal judge struck down the federal mask mandate and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) stopped enforcing it. (The Department of Justice has said it may appeal.)
At the same time, the TSA has also stopped reporting how many employees are actively infected with Covid. “TSA was among the only agencies to report its infection information so transparently,” said a TSA spokesperson via email.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, TSA has cumulatively had 22,948 federal employees test positive for Covid-19, 22,560 employees have recovered, and 36 have unfortunately died after contracting the virus,” the agency’s Covid-19 page said as recently as this morning.
But afterward, the TSA removed the section entitled “TSA Confirmed Covid-19 Cases,” which had provided a daily-updated tally of infected TSA employees and a running total for the entire pandemic. In addition, a chart had listed airports with confirmed Covid cases along with the last date worked by the most recently infected employee. Throughout the pandemic, that information has provided a reflection of where Covid was surging at the time.
Just this morning, before the section was deleted, the TSA reported 388 employees with current active infections. That is a 44% jump from the 270 infected employees reported nine days ago on April 11.
For context, 388 is a far cry from the nearly 3,700 TSA employees infected in mid-January at the height of the omicron surge and before vaccines were widely available. But 388 is not too far off the 441 TSA employees who had active infections on August 4, 2021, in the middle of the delta surge.
It is worth noting that over 93% of the TSA workforce is fully vaccinated, a significantly higher rate than the general population. Only about three out of four (74.4%) Americans age 12 and over are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
Also noteworthy is an important exception to the mask-optional rule for TSA employees. They are required to wear masks “when in areas with high community levels of Covid-19, whether vaccinated or not,” said the agency spokesperson. “Employees, contractors, and visitors are not required to wear a mask inside federal buildings or workspaces in areas with medium or low community levels of Covid-19.”
The criteria for low, medium and high Covid-19 Community Levels are based on Covid hospitalization admissions, percentage of hospital beds occupied by Covid patients, and new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 population in the past seven days.
Per this criteria, the CDC reports only 14 counties in the U.S. where the Covid-19 Community Level is deemed “high.”
Regardless of whether TSA employees don masks, it’s likely that many travelers will keep theirs on. Six out of 10 Americans (60%) support extending the mask mandate, according to a demographically weighted survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults fielded in early April by The Harris Poll Covid-19 tracking survey.