STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

TSA implements changes amid pandemic following whistleblower complaint

The Transportation Security Administration has implemented a number of procedure changes to better protect employees and passengers against the...

Posted: Jul 9, 2020 7:32 AM
Updated: Jul 9, 2020 8:30 AM

The Transportation Security Administration has implemented a number of procedure changes to better protect employees and passengers against the coronavirus following a recent whistleblower complaint that raised concerns about how the agency was responding to the pandemic.

The whistleblower, TSA federal security director Jay Brainard, who oversees Kansas airports for the agency, first raised concerns about how the TSA was handling the pandemic in a June whistleblower report filed with the Office of Special Counsel.

More than 1,000 TSA employees have tested positive for the coronavirus, according to agency data released Thursday, which includes just more than 900 front-line TSA officers who screen passengers at airports around the country. And six TSA employees have died due to the virus, according to the agency.

Brainard said on Wednesday that the agency made procedure changes on the eve of the July Fourth holiday after he raised concerns to Administrator David Pekoske, who he met with in late June.

The changes require TSA officers to clean their gloves -- or change to a new pair of gloves -- between interactions with passengers, such as a pat down or ID check, Brainard said. That change is intended to prevent cross-contamination between passengers. The TSA has also implemented other measures to prevent cross-contamination, such as encouraging passengers to put loose items in their bags rather than in bins.

Another change requires officers to wear face shields in addition to face masks. Brainard said that those two protections do a good job shielding officers from a potentially contagious passenger. Officers are offered, but not required, to wear N-95 masks, and may instead wear surgical-type masks, he added.

The agency is also standardizing the practice of putting up transparent screens at stations where passengers and officers interact without social distancing, Brainard said. The positions include the ID checking station, another station prior to the x-ray machine, and at the table where bags receive further inspection. Some airports and regions, such as Brainard's, had begun this practice months ago, he said.

Over the Independence Day weekend, the TSA saw the most passengers it has seen since the pandemic hit the US with TSA officers screening 2.7 million people.

The agency did not dispute that procedure changes have been made, and acknowledged the meeting between Brainard and Pekoske. Spokesman R. Carter Langston said in a statement that 'internal feedback comes from many different sources and we listen to all of them.'

The meeting and its role in the changes were reported earlier by The Washington Post.

A letter to the agency's Office of Special Counsel from Brainard's lawyer says his complaint 'demonstrates a substantial likelihood of gross mismanagement, a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety, and abuse of authority.'

'He charges that 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,' the letter reads.

The TSA outlined some of the changes in a June 30 announcement, and internally directed procedure changes that week.

Langston said Pekoske has held weekly employee town halls and pointed out a series of procedure changes in May and June to adapt to the pandemic.

'Most importantly, we take the responsibility to protect both passengers and our employees from COVID-19 very seriously,' he 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.'

Brainard had previously filed a whistleblower complaint in December 2019 alleging that top TSA officials have prioritized speed over security by reducing the sensitivity of metal detectors, disabling technology on some X-ray machines, and ordering policy changes that result in fewer pat-downs, among other things.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 19097

Reported Deaths: 326
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah445092
Washington283023
Marion266767
Umatilla199624
Clackamas140136
Malheur67310
Deschutes5378
Lane5183
Lincoln3919
Union3882
Jackson3851
Yamhill35911
Jefferson3103
Morrow3041
Polk28812
Linn24810
Klamath1941
Hood River1690
Wasco1613
Benton1556
Douglas1321
Josephine1051
Coos840
Clatsop800
Columbia780
Crook431
Lake320
Baker300
Tillamook280
Wallowa191
Curry140
Sherman140
Harney80
Gilliam40
Grant20
Unassigned00
Wheeler00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 512175

Reported Deaths: 9396
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1921774693
Orange37391651
Riverside37011695
San Bernardino32980417
San Diego29883565
Kern20545144
Fresno15083138
Alameda11524189
San Joaquin11483168
Santa Clara10626191
Sacramento10067142
Tulare9454178
Imperial9409220
Stanislaus9061110
Contra Costa7966125
Ventura734476
San Francisco681161
Santa Barbara616760
San Mateo5544119
Marin499470
Monterey482230
Kings438056
Merced428550
Solano361137
Sonoma305537
Madera194330
Placer192516
San Luis Obispo178315
Yolo154442
Santa Cruz11524
Butte9417
Napa8888
Sutter7866
San Benito6434
El Dorado6371
Lassen6310
Yuba4854
Shasta3699
Glenn3251
Colusa3234
Mendocino3179
Nevada2991
Tehama2341
Humboldt2334
Lake1951
Mono1451
Tuolumne1412
Amador1260
Calaveras1251
Del Norte880
Siskiyou730
Mariposa562
Inyo511
Plumas330
Trinity50
Alpine20
Modoc20
Sierra20
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 94° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 88°
Brookings
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 68° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 71°
Crater Lake
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 83° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 82°
Grants Pass
Clear
88° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 61°
Feels Like: 88°
Klamath Falls
Clear
82° wxIcon
Hi: 86° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 82°
Quiet start to the week
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events

Latest Video

Image

Dr. Jim Shames on the 17 new coronavirus cases in Jackson County Friday

Image

Monday, August 3 afternoon weather

Image

Monday, August 3 morning weather

Image

Health Alert: Understanding calcium

Image

Sunday, August 2nd Overnight Weather

Image

Sunday, August 2nd Morning Weather

Image

BLM HELPING FORESTS GET BACK ON THEIR FEET

Image

Saturday, August 1 evening weather

Image

Saturday, August 1 morning weather

Image

Pac-12 announces 10-game football schedule